Unstoppable is a 2010 action thriller film directed by Tony Scott (as his last directional film) and starring Denzel Washington and Chris Pine. The film was released by 20th Century Fox on November 12, 2010 in the United States and has gained a lot of popularity among railfans.
While moving an Allegheny and West Virginia Railroad (AWVR) train, pulled by lead locomotive #777 (a GE AC4400CW road-switcher), at a trainyard in northern Pennsylvania, yard hostlers Dewey and Gilleece incompetently allow the train to leave the rail yard on its own power with no one on board. Initially believing the train is coasting, yardmaster Connie Hooper orders Dewey, Gilleece, and welder Ned Oldham to drive and catch up to the train. When Oldham deduces that the train has already passed where it was supposed to be, they realize it is running on full power.
Connie alerts Oscar Galvin, VP of Train Operations, and instructs local and state police to block all level crossings. Federal Railroad Administration inspector Scott Werner, while visiting Hooper's yard, warns that eight of the 39 cars contain highly toxic and flammable molten phenol, which would cause a major disaster if the train should derail in a populated area. News of the runaway soon draws ongoing media coverage.
Connie suggests they purposely derail the train while passing through unpopulated farmland. Galvin dismisses her opinion, believing he can save the company money by lashing the train behind two locomotives helmed by engineer Judd Stewart, slowing it down enough for employee and former U.S. Marine Ryan Scott to descend via helicopter to the control cab of 777, over the Keating Summit. Scott is knocked unconscious when slammed into the train. Stewart attempts to divert 777 to a siding, but is unable to slow it down efficiently and is killed when he derails, while 777 continues down the main line. Realizing that 777 will derail on the Stanton Curve, a tight, elevated portion of track in heavily populated Stanton, plans are finally made to purposely derail the train, outside the smaller town of Arklow.
Veteran AWVR engineer Frank Barnes and conductor Will Colson, a new hire on a restraining order with his now estranged wife, are pulling several cars with locomotive #1206 out of Stanton. As their heavy consist forced them to bypass their first siding, they narrowly manage to pull into a "RIP track", before 777 races by, smashing through their last two cars. Frank observes that 777's grain car has an open coupler, so if they could catch up to the train, they could couple their engine and use their own brakes before it reaches the Stanton curve. Will unhitches 1206 from their own cars, while Frank reports his plan to Connie and Galvin, warning that the derailing idea will not work given 777's momentum. Galvin threatens to fire Frank, who responds that AWVR has already given him a forced half-benefits early retirement notice. Both Frank and Will indicate that they intend to continue their pursuit, regardless of his threat.
As 777 approaches the portable derail devices, police first attempt to shoot the fuel shutoff switch on the engine, but are unsuccessful. As Frank predicts, the train barrels through the derails without harm. Knowing that Frank's plan is their only remaining option to prevent total devastation, Connie, Bunny, and Werner fully support him and take over control of the situation from Galvin. Meanwhile, Darcy wakes up to find Will onboard the chaser. At the same time, Frank's daughters learn at work that their father is driving the chaser.
Frank and Will catch up to 777 and attempt to engage the coupler, blowing the seal on the car, spraying grain onto 1206. When the locking pin will not engage, Will kicks it into place, but gets injured in the process. Will hobbles to 1206's cab, where he works the dynamic brakes and throttle while Frank dangerously works his way across 777's cars, manually engaging the brakes on each car. They are barely able to reduce the speed enough to clear the Stanton Curve, with the train tipping but righting itself, before 1206's brakes fail. As 777 picks up speed, Frank finds his path blocked to 777's cab. Ned arrives in his truck with a police escort and drives on a road parallel to the tracks. Will jumps to Ned's truck, and Ned drives him to the front of 777, where Will leaps onto the locomotive and engages the brakes, ending the situation.
Frank, Will, and Ned are heralded as heroes. Frank retires with full benefits, Will reunites with his wife, Connie is promoted to Galvin's VP position, Scott recovers from his injuries, and Dewey is now working at a fast food restaurant.
Why It Rocks
- The film uses the premise about trains at a very interesting level.
- Likeable characters with a lot of character development (e.g. Frank Barnes and Will Colson).
- Intense action sequences. Examples include the chase down the mainline, the 7375 and 7346 attempting the stop the train, and the climax at Stanton, PA.
- An assemble cast which includes the following; Denzel Washington, Chris Pine, Rosario Dawson, Ethan Suplee, Kevin Dunn, Kevin Corrigan, Lew Temple, T. J. Miller, Jessy Schram, David Warshofsky, Andy Umberger, Elizabeth Mathis, Meagan Tandy, and Ryan Ahern.
- The visual effects look realistic and life like, especially when the train is leaning on the Stanton Curve.
- The film has become a classic among railfans.
- The elephant sound effects make the AWVR 777 sound absolutely menacing.
- An unforgettable soundtrack composed by Harry Gregson-Williams, especially the track composed for the Stanton Curve scene.
- The film does not feature any real railroads and instead goes creative.
- Galvin is an unlikeable cooperate bad guy and an incredibly pointless villain (AWVR 777 is basically the only "villain" the film needs).
- While it had an intense near miss scene, the school excursion train is completely forgotten and serves no real purpose to the plot.
Unstoppable received positive reviews from critics and currently holds an 86% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with the site's critical consensus reading "As fast, loud, and relentless as the train at the center of the story, Unstoppable is perfect popcorn entertainment—and director Tony Scott's best movie in years." The film was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Sound Editing at the 83rd Academy Awards, but lost to Inception.
Unstoppable grossed $167 million against a production budget around $90 million.
- The film is inspired by a true story where a CSX freight train loaded with hazardous chemicals running unmanned down the Pemberville Subdivision.
- The film was the last film Tony Scott directed before his death.
- Canadian Pacific GE AC4400CW #9777 has become well known among railfans for being used as Allegheny West Virginia Railroad GE AC4400CW #777.