Denzel Washington and Chris Pine chug into theaters this weekend in Tony Scott’s runaway-train thriller, Unstoppable. Denzel Washington plays a railway veteran assigned to show the new guy on the job (Pine) the ropes. Is a movie about a train with no one on it exciting? Is this really a true story? Will Unstoppable be unstoppable at the box office this weekend? As a service, we answer every question that you could possibly have about Unstoppable.
Q: Are you sure your introduction is correct? I swear I’ve seen this movie before, but Chris Pine wasn’t in it. Aren’t you forgetting John Travolta?
A: John Travolta and Denzel Washington starred in last year’s The Taking of Pelham 123, which was also directed by Tony Scott. Q: See, this movie came out last year. Why are we still talking about it?
A: The Taking of Pelham 123, which came out in 2009, was a movie about a hijacked New York City subway train. Unstoppable is a movie about an unmanned, out-of-control freight train. There is a distinct difference.
Q: Oh, yes, Unstoppable—the movie about a train filled with money starring Wesley Snipes?
A: No, you’re confusing your train movies. Unstoppable was a 2004 direct-to-DVD release starring Wesley Snipes that has absolutely nothing to do with trains. Snipes did star alongside Woody Harrelson in 1995’s Money Train.
Q: Why is the freight train unmanned in Unstoppable? Does this have something to do with the recession?
A: The freight train had an engineer, but he hopped out to change a railroad switch on the tracks. He thought he would be able to jump back in, but the train was going too fast.
Q: Who plays the engineer who jumps out of the train?
A: Ethan Suplee, best known for playing Randy on My Name is Earl.
Q: Was the train really going too fast, or was the engineer just too slow?
A: Probably the latter. Regardless, the train was left in a very high gear, so it continues to gain speed as it goes—up to 80 miles per hour. The train’s dispatcher (played by Rosario Dawson) claims the train is the length of the Chrysler building.
Q: That is a surprisingly specific comparison. Is the train hauling anything harmful?
A: It is hauling a substantial amount of molten phenol, a very toxic chemical.
Q: Is Unstoppable the name of the train?
A: No, the train is referred to by its number, 777.
Q: Who does Denzel Washington play?
A: Denzel Washington plays Frank, a 28-year veteran of the railroad company who was recently given notice that he is losing his job to make room for younger staffers.
Q: How many times does Frank mention that he has worked for the railroad company for 28 years?
Q: Let me guess, Chris Pine is taking Frank’s job?
A: More or less. Pine plays Will, the new guy who got the job through family connections.
Q: Will gets a lot of ribbing from the veterans on the job, right?
Q: And Will has a heart of gold, with a loving wife and kid at home?
A: Actually, his wife took out a restraining order on him after he accused her of cheating and then pulled a gun on her male friend, who also happens to be a cop. Will continues to call his wife constantly, but she never picks up. (Also, I should note, anytime a phone call is made in this film, the caller-ID photo looks like it was taken at Glamour Shots.)
Q: Wait, what? How is Will not in jail?
A: Well, Unstoppable does take place in rural Pennsylvania; I can only guess this kind of thing is more common than we think in rural parts of the country. (But that’s just my snobbish, city-slicker perspective.)
Q: How many cameos does Peter Griffith from Family Guy have in Unstoppable?
Q: Is Unstoppable really based on a true story?
A: Technically, yes.
Q: What are some differences?
A: The real story takes place in the state of Ohio, not Pennsylvania. Also, the train’s number was 8888.
Q: O.K., well, that’s not thatbig of a change. A train traveling close to 80 miles per hour still sounds pretty dangerous.
A: The real version of the train never went faster than 47 miles per hour, or about the same speed that my grandmother drives on the interstate (and I would never describe her Silver Frost Clearcoat Metallic Lincoln Continental as “unstoppable”).
Q: In real life, how did the train eventually come to a stop?
A: Another train coupled onto the runaway train, slowing it down to around 10 miles per hour, and a driver simply hopped on board and stopped it.
Q: Is it safe to assume that Tony Scott’s version of these event does not end with a train traveling slower than Usain Bolt, a human being, can run?