Oscar-winner Denzel Washington and Star Trek's Chris Pine co-star as railroad men in a desperate race to stop a runaway freight train and avert a disaster. True events inspired Unstoppable.
"I'm Will Colson. We're working together today on train 1206."
"This ain't training. In training they just give you an 'F.' Out here you get killed."
Frank Barnes is a veteran engineer hauling tons of freight across the Pennsylvania countryside. In the locomotive cab with him this day is Will Colson, fresh out of training. While they work what starts out as a normal day on the tracks, a stupid mistake by a maintenance crew sets another train in motion with nobody at the controls and its safety. systems disabled
"We have an unmanned train rolling into a highly populated area with no air brakes?"
Its throttle wide open, the runaway - train number 777 - roars down the main track heading right for a town where its cargo of industrial chemicals could cause a major disaster. One by one, every effort fails to stop it.
The rail yard supervisor, played by Rosario Dawson, is on the radio ordering other trains out of the path of the speeding runaway; but when it passes Frank Barnes and his train number 1206, the experienced engineer sees a way to capture it with his own locomotive …from behind.
Unstoppable director and producer Tony Scott says the characters are fictional, but the story does include details of a real incident that occurred in Ohio in 2001.
"We mixed and matched in terms of my research and what I could do in terms of the characters and the event …so it's a mixture," explains Scott. "That's why it says 'inspired by.'
"You're trying to balance the two worlds: the conflict between the two guys, which is great in terms of drama - these two guys in this small space, it's almost like a piece of theater - in conjunction with what the train is doing," Scott adds. "Then you're cutting back to Rosario, who is the eyes and ears of the audience, trying to tap into what is going on. For me it's a great vehicle because I've got all these different (elements). When you're shooting, you create paint for your palette to put on your canvas when you get in the editing room; but I had great, great colors to draw from to put on that canvas."
Scott says he used (and wrecked) real trains rather than try to recreate the scenes with CG or computer-generated images.
"This movie is about reality, weight and speed and no matter how good CG is, it's really hard to reproduce," the director admits.
He also puts his main characters right in the middle of the fast-paced action; but co-star Chris Pine says he was happy to let the professional stunt double take over.
"Pretty much every time I'm not connected to any vehicle …if someone is jumping, it's not me," explains Pine. "But I did most all of it except for jumping onto moving vehicles. That's not me."
Denzel Washington jokes about taking on all the daredevil feats himself; but that IS him on top of a tank car as his character tries to bring the runaway under control.
"What I didn't realize was going to happen was because the cars were not full - the train cars were empty - there was a lot more wiggle in it so it was really unstable," says Washington.
"I'm not risking this company just because some engineer wants to play hero."
"It's not for you. I'm not doing it for you."
Co-star Rosario Dawson says characters like Washington's Frank, Chris Pine's Will and her dispatcher Connie represent the ordinary people dedicated to doing their jobs even through tough economic times.
"Railroads are a huge part of American history and it was an incredible journey for all of us, even the little bits that I had, to travel with this movie and be in parts of America that I hadn't been in and to learn about the industry and a world that we don't get to look into very often," notes Dawson. "It's a very old kind of world, but this has so much on topic …and I think that was actually quite a joy to work with such incredible talents who know how to tell a great, fun popcorn-action film, but with incredible heart that is very palpable with what is going on right now."
Unstoppable is written by Mark Bomback and was filmed on location in the rail yards and on the main line freight tracks of the American northeast.