Unstoppable (2010 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Tony Scott|
|Produced by||Julie Yorn
|Written by||Mark Bomback|
T. J. Miller
|Music by||Harry Gregson-Williams|
|Editing by||Chris Lebenzon
|Studio||20th Century Fox
Scott Free Productions
Millbrook Farm Productions
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Running time||98 minutes|
Unstoppable is a 2010 American action thriller film directed by Tony Scott, written by Mark Bomback, and starring Denzel Washington and Chris Pine. The film, loosely based on the real-life CSX 8888 incident, tells the story of a runaway freight train, and the two men (Washington and Pine) who attempt to stop it. It was Scott's final feature film before his suicide in 2012.
The film was released in the United States and Canada on November 12, 2010, and in the United Kingdom on November 24, 2010. It received mostly favorable reviews from film critics; it garnered a "Certified Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes based upon aggregated reviews, and a rating of "Generally favorable reviews" at Metacritic. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Sound Editing at the 83rd Academy Awards, but lost to Inception.
Veteran Allegheny and West Virginia Railroad (AWVR) engineer Frank Barnes (Denzel Washington) oversees his co-worker, freshly hired conductor Will Colson (Chris Pine) as they use AWVR locomotive #1206 to run a train outside the fictional city of Stanton, Pennsylvania, but leave with several cars more than they should have because Will added five cars.
Meanwhile, down the line near Fuller, Pennsylvania, AWVR hostlers Dewey (Ethan Suplee) and Gilleece (T. J. Miller) are ordered by dispatcher Bunny (Kevin Chapman) to move a freight train led by locomotives #777 and #767 off its current track. To speed up the short trip, Gilleece leaves the hoses for the air brakes disconnected. Dewey leaves the moving cab to throw a misaligned rail switch, but because of Gilleece's error the train's throttle sticks and the train, now unmanned, begins speeding down the main line toward Stanton. Dewey is forced to report the train as a "coaster" to Fuller yardmaster Connie Hooper (Rosario Dawson), who orders Dewey, Gilleece, and lead welder Ned Oldham (Lew Temple) to intercept the train at a siding. However, the three cannot get to the train before it reaches the siding as it is going too fast.
Ned is ordered to resume pursuit and gets a police escort to help him, while an attempt to regain control of 777 by Dewey and Gilleece from a hi-rail pickup fails.
Connie reports the runaway to Oscar Galvin (Kevin Dunn), vice-president of train operations for AWVR, and coordinates with local police, sheriffs, and Pennsylvania State Police to ensure all grade crossings along the line are secured. Visiting Federal Railroad Administration safety inspector Scott Werner (Kevin Corrigan) alerts them to that molten phenol is being carried by eight tanker cars on the train and poses an immediate danger. Galvin rejects Connie's suggestion to derail the train in an area of unpopulated farmland before it enters the towns ahead, more worried about the damage the derailment would mean to AWVR than innocent lives, believing they can stop the train safely before then. As the train's odyssey becomes a media event, a lashup of two engines, locomotives #7375 and #7346, driven by veteran conductor Judd Stewart (David Warshofsky) goes ahead of the runaway to try to slow the train while AWVR employee and former U.S. Marine Ryan Scott (Ryan Ahern) is lowered to 777's cab from a helicopter. The plan goes awry, injuring Ryan when the train accelerates after he lands on it, and the lashup derails trying to divert 777 to a siding and explodes, killing Judd.
As 1206 heads towards Fuller, Frank radioes in and learns about 777 from Connie. 1206 is on the same track and needs to get off of it, but due to Will's earlier error Frank has to bypass a siding in favor of a longer Repair-In-Place track further along the line. They make it into the RIP siding track as the runaway speeds past them, smashing through one of the rear cars. Frank gets out of the cab of 1206 and realizes that if he unhooks 1206 and goes in long hood forward in the direction that 777 was headed, he and Will might be able to slow the runaway before the train reaches a sharp elevated curve in Stanton, which would derail the train and cause it to crash into several large fuel tanks just below the curve, which would bring massive damage to the town. Will decides to help after some cajoling from Frank, who learns that Galvin is planning to use derailers to stop the train. Frank tells Galvin directly that the plan will not work and despite the wishes of the railroad, he plans on going ahead with his plan to catch up to 777 on his own. Galvin threatens to fire Frank and Will if they continue, but Frank reveals that AWVR is forcing him to take early retirement and it does not matter. Despite Galvin's demands, Connie and Scott encourage Frank and Will to continue their pursuit.
Outside the smaller town of Arklow, Pennsylvania State Police try to hit the fuel shutoff button with their M16s as 777 passes their grade crossing. They fire several rounds off before ceasing fire at the risk of hitting the diesel fuel tank next to the button.
As Frank foresaw, Galvin's plan to derail the train outside Arklow fails as the train blows right through the derailers. Galvin is left dumbfounded by the failure of the derailers and has no choice but to rely on Frank and Will. Meanwhile, the area around the curve in Stanton is evacuated as 777 approaches as Ned continues his pursuit of the runaway with his police backup.
1206 finally catches up with 777 and Frank and Will are able to hook onto 777's rearmost car despite Will wedging his foot in between the coupling at first. Though 1206's dynamic brakes begin to reduce the speed of 777, the train is still moving too fast for the curve. 1206's dynamic brakes then blow out, and the runaway 777 begins to pick up speed again dragging 1206 with it. Frank goes out and begins to engage each car's manual brakes in a last ditch attempt to slow 777 down as it nears the curve, eventually planning to get into the cab and stop the train there. Meanwhile, Will uses 1206's independent brake to keep the train on the rails as it speeds through the curve. Although the train makes it through the curve without falling from the track, 777 is still out of control and to make matters worse, Frank encounters a gap in between cars that is too wide to cross and thus cannot get to the cab.
Ned arrives in his truck, and pulls onto a parallel road next to the line. Will jumps onto the truck, and is driven to the front of the train, where he jumps into 777 and is finally able to stop the train. Frank, Will and Ned are celebrated as heroes, and the two reunite with their families. A pre-credit montage reveals that Frank was promoted and is now retired with full benefits, Will is expecting a second child with his wife, Connie was promoted to Galvin's job, Ryan Scott recovered fully from his injuries, and Dewey is now working in the fast food industry.
- Denzel Washington as Frank Barnes, a veteran railroad engineer.
- Chris Pine as Will Colson, a young train conductor.
- Rosario Dawson as Connie Hooper, a train yardmaster.
- Lew Temple as Ned Oldham, a railroad lead welder.
- Ethan Suplee as Dewey, a hostler who accidentally instigates the disaster.
- Kevin Dunn as Oscar Galvin, vice-president of AWVR train operations.
- Kevin Corrigan as Scott Werner, an FRA inspector who helps Frank, Will, and Connie.
- Kevin Chapman as Bunny, a railroad operations dispatcher.
- T. J. Miller as Gilleece, Dewey's friend, also a hostler.
- Jessy Schram as Darcy Colson, Will's estranged wife.
- David Warshofsky as Judd Stewart, a veteran engineer who dies in an attempt to slow the runaway.
- Victor Gojcaj as Groundman, a railroad ground specialist.
- Meagan Tandy and Elizabeth Mathis as Maya and Nicole Barnes, Frank's daughters who work as waitresses at Hooters.
- Ryan Ahern as Ryan Scott, a railway employee and US Marine veteran of the war in Afghanistan who attempts unsuccessfully to board the runaway from a helicopter.
- Aisha Hinds as Railroad Safety Campaign Coordinator
In June 2007, 20th Century Fox was in negotiations with Martin Campbell to direct the film, and he was attached as director, until March 2009 when Tony Scott came on board as director. In April, both Denzel Washington and Chris Pine were attached to the project.
The original budget had been trimmed from $107 million to $100 million, but Fox wanted to reduce it to the low $90 million range, asking Scott to cut his salary from $9 million to $6 million and wanting Washington to shave $4 million off his $20 million fee. Washington declined and, although attached since April, formally withdrew from the project in July, citing lost patience with the film's lack of a start date. Fox made a modified offer as enticement, and he returned to the project two weeks later.
Production was headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where the fictional railroad depicted in the movie, the "Allegheny and West Virginia Railroad," is headquartered. Filming took place in a broad area around there including the Ohio cities of Martins Ferry, Bellaire, Mingo Junction, Steubenville and Brewster, and in the Pennsylvania cities of Pittsburgh, Emporium, Milesburg, Tyrone, Julian, Unionville, Port Matilda, Bradford, Monaca, Eldred, Turtlepoint, Port Allegany and Carnegie, and also in Portville and Olean, New York. The Western New York and Pennsylvania Railroad's Buffalo Line was used for two months during daylight, while the railroad ran its regular freight service at night. The real-life bridge and elevated curve in the climactic scene is the B & O Railroad Viaduct in Bellaire, Ohio. A two-day filming session took place at the Hooters restaurant in Wilkins, Pennsylvania, a Pittsburgh suburb, featuring 10 Hooters Girls from across the United States. Other interior scenes were shot at 31st Street Studios (then the Mogul Media Studios) on 31st Street in Pittsburgh. Filming began on August 31, 2009, for a release on November 12, 2010.
Filming was delayed for one day when part of the train accidentally derailed on November 21, 2009.
The locomotives used on the runaway train, 777 and trailing unit 767, were GE AC4400CWs leased from the Canadian Pacific Railway. CP #9777 and #9758 played 777 and 767 in early scenes, and CP #9782 and #9751 were given a damaged look for later scenes. These four locomotives were repainted by Canadian Pacific in standard colors following the filming, but the painted pilot warning stripes from the AWVR livery were left untouched and remain visible on the locomotives. Most of the other locomotives seen in the film, including chase locomotive #1206, and the lashup locomotives used in an attempt to stop the train, #7375 and #7346, were EMD SD40-2s leased from the Wheeling and Lake Erie Railway. #1206 was played by three different SD40-2s: W&LE #6353 and #6534, and a third unit that was bought from scrap and modified for cab shots. #7375 and #7346 were played by W&LE #6352 and #6351, which also played two locomotive "extras" (#5624 and #5580) in its original W&LE paint. The excursion train locomotive (#2002) was a Southwestern Pennsylvania Railroad Paducah-built EMD GP11 rebuilt from an EMD GP9. Passenger coaches carrying schoolchildren were provided by the Orrville Railroad Heritage Society.
Unstoppable was inspired by the 2001 CSX 8888 incident, in which a runaway train ultimately traveled 66 miles (106 km) through northwest Ohio. Led by CSX Transportation SD40-2 #8888, the train left the Walbridge, Ohio, rail yard with no one at the controls, after the hostler got out of the slow-moving train to correctly line a switch, mistakenly believing he had properly set the train's dynamic braking system, much as his counterpart (Dewey) in the film mistakenly believed he had properly set the locomotive's throttle.
Two of the train's tank cars contained thousands of gallons of molten phenol, a toxic ingredient of paints and dyes harmful when it is inhaled, ingested, or brought into contact with the skin. Attempts to derail it using a portable derailer failed, and police were unable to shoot out the fuel release valve, instead hitting the fuel cap. For two hours, the train traveled at speeds up to 51 miles per hour (82 km/h) until the crew of a second train coupled onto the runaway and slowly applied its brakes. Once the runaway was slowed down to 11 miles per hour, CSX trainmaster Jon Hosfeld ran alongside the train and climbed aboard, shutting down the locomotive. The train was stopped just southeast of Kenton, Ohio. No one was seriously injured in the incident.
When the film was released, the Toledo Blade compared the events of the film to the real-life incident. "It's predictably exaggerated and dramatized to make it more entertaining," wrote David Patch, "but close enough to the real thing to support the 'Inspired by True Events' announcement that flashes across the screen at its start." He notes that the dead man switch would probably have worked in real life despite the unconnected brake hoses, unless the locomotive, or independent brakes, were already applied. As explained in the movie, the dead man's switch failed because the only available brakes were the independent brakes, which were quickly worn through, similar to CSX 8888. The film exaggerates the possible damage the phenol could have caused in a fire, and he found it incredible that the fictional AWVR freely disseminated information such as employees' names and images and the cause of the runaway to the media. In the real instance, he writes, the cause of the runaway was not disclosed until months later when the National Transportation Safety Board released its report, and CSX never made public the name of the engineer whose error let the train slip, nor what disciplinary action it took.
The film score was composed by Harry Gregson-Williams and the soundtrack album was released on December 7, 2010.
|This section requires expansion. (December 2010)|
A trailer was released online on August 6, 2010. The film went on general release November 12, 2010.
|This section requires expansion. (June 2013)|
Unstoppable received positive reviews from film critics. Rotten Tomatoes gives it a score of 86% based on 177 reviews, with an average score of 6.9/10. The film is "Certified Fresh", and the critical consensus is: "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." Metacritic gives the film a score of 69% based on reviews from 32 critics indicating "generally favorable reviews".
Film critic Roger Ebert rated the film three and a half stars out of four, remarking in his review, "In terms of sheer craftsmanship, this is a superb film." In The New York Times, Manohla Dargis praised the film's visual style, saying that Scott "creates an unexpectedly rich world of chugging, rushing trains slicing across equally beautiful industrial and natural landscapes."
The Globe and Mail in Toronto was more measured. While the movie's action scenes "ha[ve] the greasy punch of a three-minute heavy-metal guitar solo", its critic felt the characters were weak. It called the film "an opportunistic political allegory about an economy that's out of control and industries that are weakened by layoffs, under-staffing and corporate callousness."
Unstoppable was expected to take in about the same amount of money as The Taking of Pelham 123, another Tony Scott film involving an out-of-control train starring Denzel Washington. Pelham took in $23.4 million during its opening weekend in the United States and Canada. Unstoppable had a strong opening night on Friday November 12, 2010, coming in ahead of Megamind with a gross of $8.1 million. However Megamind won the weekend, earning $30 million to Unstoppable 's $23.9 million. Unstoppable performed slightly better than The Taking of Pelham 123 did in its opening weekend. As of April 2011, the film had earned $167,805,466 worldwide. 
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