Choo, choo, I think I can, I think I can. The little engine that couldn’t stop stars in the movie version of the hit TV show, My Name is Earl!
One Word Movie Review: Great
Unstoppable is a high-velocity ode to getting the job done despite all the crap daily life tosses your way. From the opening statement, “inspired by true events” followed by the slow-motion opening pan across the rail yard, looking up at the behemoth engines from ground-level, we are immersed in the jobs and lives of everyday working stiffs tossed into a disaster scenario. A small lapse of judgment sets in motion a train missile “the size of the Chrysler building” careening down the tracks at top speed, threatening the lives of thousands of Pennsylvania residents.
The tense, accelerating drama works because we identify with the two heroes, their jobs and families and the whole mechanics of how the hell you stop a runaway train. The audience enjoying Unstoppable with me were literally on the edge of their seats as “The Little Engine that Couldn’t Stop” hurtled towards that 15 mile/hour curve at 60 miles/hour. Unlike most thrillers these days where the laptop saves the world, the solution here is real simple: slam on the brakes!
Even the obligatory executive cheeseballs and their bottom line decisions were only mildly distracting from the direct “feet on the ground” railway employees using their experience and knowledge to plan and decide what to do. They take action, f’Chrissake and get the job done. By the time we get to the final tug of war between the two little engines pulling at opposite ends of the deadly cargo, we embrace the mythology of the hero within all of us and root for the railway conductor, engineer and head welder to save the day.
Stephen King wrote a great primer On Writing and remarked, to his surprise, how audiences love stories about people and their jobs. Take an ordinary worker and place them in an extraordinary circumstance and you have a story. Put a plumber in space, a driller under the ocean or an engineer on a runaway train and you have a story people want to see.
Unstoppable is inspiring stuff, well-acted and paced naturally with the ticking bomb of the train rolling closer and closer towards that deadly curve…