Posted by: bgtwindad | November 12, 2010


Unstoppable movie photo

Photo (C) 2010 TC Fox. All Rights Reserved.

My wife treated me to a matinee show of the new movie “Unstoppable” at the theater today.  If you haven’t seen the previews, it’s about a large freight train (# 777) with hazardous cargo that gets loose from a yard in Southern Pennsylvania and threatens a medium-sized city.  Frank, a veteran engineer (Denzel Washington), and Will, a rookie conductor (Chris Pine), have to chase the train down and save the day.

(View the Trailer on YouTube…)

My short review:  GO SEE THIS MOVIE.  It is a great action flick, full of nail biting moments and good dialogue, a riveting story line and some decent character development.  It’s not Oscar material, but it’s a good popcorn film.  Even my wife and kids enjoyed it!

The movie is PG-13, and there is a fair amount of “cussing” – more than I really would have preferred my 10 year olds hear, but not so much that it wasn’t tolerable.  We simply discussed that bit briefly after the movie.  There is no sexual content, except for some restaurant views of Frank’s daughters and their co-workers – at Hooters,  and all of the violence is of the “ooh! he almost fell off the train!” variety.

As for the storyline, it is somewhat formulaic, but not too badly so.  You have the grizzled veteran, the rookie, the bumbling fool, the tough-as-nails woman, the cold, money-focused corporate VP, the redneck in a pickup, and so on… You have to think of it as the action flick version of the “romantic comedy”.  You know generally what’s going to happen, but it ends up being an entertaining story anyway.

My railfan friends will be wondering about how accurate the railroad stuff is.  I left more than satisfied.  The rail footage alone is worth the movie, and while they certainly got some things wrong, they did not stretch credulity to the breaking point.  The most obvious technical errors mostly had to do with speed.  If you look close you’ll note that some of the “high speed” footage was obviously filmed at a slow, safe speed (and not sped up), especially where major characters are concerned. Watch the shots where Will  is guiding Frank to couple on the back of the runaway train for an example.

In another scene, they try to slow the runaway by coupling two locomotives to the front of the train.  In the scene where the “chase” locos pull in front of the runaway, the relative closing rates of the trains don’t match the storyline.  The runaway is barrelling down on the lead trains at (supposedly) nearly 70 MPH, and the chase engines are entering the mainline at what appears to be 5-10 MPH.  The runaway should have closed the apparent separation distance in seconds and smashed into the slowly accelerating chasers.  Somehow the chase engine accelerated to a matching speed almost instantly…

I’m sure there are plenty of other “goofs” that railfans will catch that are beyond me, but as a relative “layman” I would deem them minor.  One thing that did bother me was that nobody seemed to realize that locomotives can be boarded from the back.  Some might wonder if it’s even possible for a train to get loose like that in the first place.  This is, perhaps, the most “real” part of the whole story – it’s based on a very real train that got free from a yard in Ohio in much the same way #777 gets loose.

In all, I think they did a pretty good job.  It’s an entertaining film with believable characters, gripping action, a good story and some great railroad action.

Certainly worth a matinee, at least, and probably a second look at the dollar theater.



  1. I just got done wtching the movie. It was so good. My family and I have aquestion that we can’t find the answer for. What was the year of the 777 runaway train that the movie was based on? We have looked everywhere and con’t find the answer. Thank you!

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