Unstoppable (2010 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Tony Scott|
|Written by||Mark Bomback|
|Music by||Harry Gregson-Williams|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Box office||$167.8 million|
Unstoppable is a 2010 American action thriller film directed and produced by Tony Scott and starring Denzel Washington and Chris Pine. It is loosely based on the real-life CSX 8888 incident, telling the story of a runaway freight train and the two men who attempt to stop it. The film was the last film Tony Scott directed before his death.
The film was released in the United States and Canada on November 12, 2010. It received generally positive reviews from critics and grossed $167 million against a production budget between $85–100 million. The film was nominated for an Oscar for Best Sound Editing at the 83rd Academy Awards, but lost to Inception.
While yard hostlers are moving an Allegheny and West Virginia Railroad (AWVR) train, pulled by lead locomotive #777 at a trainyard in northern Pennsylvania, Dewey, the engineer of the mixed-freight train, realizes that a switch is not correctly aligned and tries to realign it by leaving the cabin of the moving locomotive after setting the throttle to idle, but he trips and falls, leaving the locomotive unattended going down the main line. Meanwhile the throttle pops out of idle into full throttle notch 8. Believing the train is coasting, yardmaster Connie Hooper orders Dewey, Gilleece, and welder Ned Oldham to drive and catch up to the train, but when Oldham deduces that the train has already passed where it was expected 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 it passes 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. However, Scott is knocked unconscious during the attempt when 777 suddenly lunges at Stewart's lashup as he touches down, sending him crashing into follow locomotive 767's windshield, and when Stewart attempts to divert 777 to a siding, he is unable to slow it down and is killed when his train derails at a switch and the diesel fuel ignites and explodes, engulfing the lashup diesels in a huge fireball. 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 railroad engineer Frank Barnes and conductor Will Colson, a new hire under a restraining order with his estranged wife Darcy, are pulling several cars with locomotive #1206 out of Stanton. As their too-long train forced them to bypass their first siding, they narrowly manage to pull into a "RIP track" before 777 races by, smashing through their last box car. Frank observes that 777's rear car has an open coupler and proposes that they travel in reverse and catch up to the 777 in an attempt to couple their engine to the runaway and then use their own brakes to slow down 777 before it reaches the Stanton curve. Will uncouples 1206 from their own cars, while Frank reports his plan to Connie and Galvin, warning that Galvin's derailing idea will not work given 777's momentum. Galvin threatens to fire Frank, who informs Galvin that AWVR has already given Frank a forced, half-benefits, early-retirement notice. Galvin threatens to fire Will as well, but both Frank and Will ignore him and pursue 777.
As 777 approaches the portable derail devices, police first attempt to engage the engine's fuel-shutoff button by shooting at it, but are unsuccessful. As Frank predicted, the train barrels through the derailers unhindered and spreading the remains onto police cars damaging them, to Galvin's dumbfounded disbelief and shock. Knowing that Frank's plan is their only remaining chance at preventing a cataclysmic disaster, Connie and Werner fully support him and take over control of the situation from Galvin. Meanwhile, Darcy wakes up and learns about 777 and Will's involvement in the chase. Similarly, Frank's daughters learn at work of their father's involvement.
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 his foot crushed and injured in the process. Will hobbles back to 1206's cab, and Frank attempts to slow 777 by powering 1206 in the opposite direction, but 777's momentum proves to be too powerful. Will stays in the cab to work the dynamic brakes and throttle while Frank dangerously works his way across the top of 777's cars, manually engaging the brakes on each car. Eventually, 1206's dynamic brakes fail due to the traction motors being overworked and burnt out and the train starts gaining speed again. Using coordinated braking techniques, they manage to reduce speed enough to just barely clear the Stanton Curve with the train tipping but righting itself. 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 onto the bed of Ned's truck, and Ned drives him to the front of 777, where Will leaps onto the locomotive, reduced the throttle to idle and applies the brakes, finally allowing them to bring the runaway train to a safe stop.
Frank, Will, and Ned are heralded as heroes. Via captions, we learn that Frank keeps his job, gets promoted and later retires with full benefits. Will reunites with his son and Darcy (who is currently expecting their second child), recovers from his injuries and continues working with AWVR. Connie is promoted to Galvin's VP position, Ryan Scott also recovers, and Dewey, who is held responsible for causing the fiasco, is fired from his job and goes on to work at a fast-food restaurant.
The locomotives used in the movie were borrowed from two railroads. The 2 AWVR locomotives, 777 and 767, were GE AC4400CW's borrowed from the Canadian Pacific Railway. 777 was played by CP 9782 and 9777. 767 was played by CP 9782 (during 777's 9777) and 9751. The other locomotives, the EMD SD40-2s which includes 1206, were borrowed from Wheeling and Lake Erie. 1206 was played by W&LE 6353 and 6354. 7375 was W&LE 6352, also playing as AWVR 5624. Lastly, 7346 was W&LE 6351. W&LE 6352 also played as AWVR 5607 (Brewster yard) and AWVR 5580. 
- 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
- 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 Inspector Scott Werner, an FRA inspector who helps Frank, Will, and Connie
- Kevin Chapman as Bunny, a railroad operations dispatcher
- Lew Temple as Ned Oldham, a railroad lead welder
- 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 is friends with Frank & dies in an attempt to slow the runaway train
- Andy Umberger as Janeway
- Elizabeth Mathis and Meagan Tandy as Nicole and Maya Barnes, Frank's daughters who work as waitresses at Hooters
- Aisha Hinds as Casey Barnes, a railway safety campaign coordinator
- Ryan Ahern as Ryan Scott, a railway employee and US Marine veteran of the war in Afghanistan who is injured in an attempt to stop the runaway
In August 2004, Mark Bomback was hired by 20th Century Fox to write the screenplay Runaway Train. Robert Schwentke signed on to direct Runaway Train in August 2005, with plans to begin shooting in early 2006. In June 2007, Martin Campbell was in negotiations to replace Schwentke as director of the film, now titled Unstoppable. Campbell was attached 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, Mill Hall, Turtlepoint, Port Allegany and Carnegie, and also in Portville and Olean, New York. The film is the most expensive ever to be shot in Western Pennsylvania.
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 between Bellaire, Ohio and Benwood, West Virginia. A major oversight in the film was the size of "Stanton, Pennsylvania". Listed as having 752,000 people, this would have made Stanton more than twice the size of Pittsburgh in 2010, whereas the city which was set as Stanton, Bellaire, Ohio, was considerably smaller, having just over 4,000 residents.
A two-day filming session took place at the Hooters restaurant in Wilkins Township, 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. Principal photography began on August 31, 2009, for a release on November 12, 2010.
The video for the song "Beyond Tension", by Texas-based electronic musician Jon Dishongh, can be seen playing on two background televisions across multiple scenes. This occurred by accident due to a cast member watching various music videos during breaks while on set.
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 played by 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 remained visible on the locomotives. The plow on 9777 appears to have been repainted black as of 2013.
Most of the other locomotives seen in the film, including chase locomotive #1206, and the locomotive consist used in an attempt to stop the train, #7375 and #7346, were played by EMD SD40-2s leased from the Wheeling and Lake Erie Railway. #1206 was played by three different SD40-2s: W&LE #6353 and #6354, and a third unit that was bought from scrap and modified for cab shots. Judd Stewart's locomotive consist #7375 and #7346 were played by W&LE #6352 and #6351, which also played two locomotive "extras" (#5624 and #5580), wearing the same grey livery with different running numbers. The excursion train locomotive (#2002) was played by a Southwest 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 correct a misaligned 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 (in the CSX incident, the locomotive had an older-style throttle stand where the same lever controlled both the throttle and the dynamic brakes; in fact, putting on "full throttle" and "full brakes" both involved advancing the same lever to the highest position after switching to a different operating mode. Thus if the engineer failed to properly switch modes, it was easy to accidentally apply full throttle instead of full brake, or vice versa.)
Two of the train's tank cars contained thousands of gallons of molten phenol, a toxic ingredient used in glues, paints and dyes. The chemical is very dangerous; it is highly corrosive to the skin, eyes, lungs and nasal tract. Attempts to derail it using a portable derailer failed, and police were unable to shoot the fuel release valve and jam it in the pushed position, 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 locomotive, CSX #8392, coupled onto the runaway and slowly applied its brakes. Once the runaway was slowed down to 11 miles per hour (18 km/h), CSX trainmaster Jon Hosfeld ran alongside the train, and climbed aboard, shutting down the locomotive. The train was stopped at the Route 31 crossing, just south-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 was taken. However, on YouTube, an individual had shared unconfirmed information on this, stating that the Engineer responsible for the 8888 runaway did not get dismissed, but rather got a sixty-day suspension.
The film score was composed by Harry Gregson-Williams and the soundtrack album was released on December 7, 2010.
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A trailer was released online on August 6, 2010. The film went on general release November 12, 2010.
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On Rotten Tomatoes the film holds an approval rating of 87% certified fresh based on 193 reviews, with an average rating of 6.92/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "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 weighted average score of 69 out of 100, based on 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."[dead link] 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 film's action scenes "have 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."
Director Quentin Tarantino highlighted the film in a January 2020 episode of the podcast Rewatchables, and included it in his list of the ten best of the decade. Christopher Nolan cited the film as an influence, praising its use of suspense.
Unstoppable was expected to take in about the same amount of money as the previous year's 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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One person close to the production said "Unstoppable" cost about $100 million after the benefit of tax credits, though another person close to Fox said the final budget was closer to $85 million.
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