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Vol. LXIV, No. 46
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
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For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

HEIGH HO, HEIGH HO, IT’S OFF TO WORK WE GO: Frank Barnes (Denzel Washington, right) and Will Colson (Chris Pine) are starting what they are sure will be another uneventful workday. However, fate has another plan in store for them, when they are called upon by their employer to somehow stop a runaway freight train that is on a collision course with a train full of school children on an outing.

Unstoppable: Denzel Washington Saves the Day Once Again

Kam Williams

Frank Barnes (Denzel Washington) is winding down a 28-year career riding the rails with the Allegheny and West Virginia Railroad (AWVR). Despite his sterling record, the veteran engineer is being forced by the company to take early retirement. This is part of AWVR’s cost-cutting measures and in just a couple of weeks Frank will be out of a job.

For his last few weeks with the company, Frank finds himself partnered with Will Colson (Chris Pine), a young conductor who’s recently been hired because of his union connections. As a result, there is some tension in the air when, because of the rookie’s mistake, they end up leaving the train yard pulling a few more freight cars than were on their schedule.

However, that faux pas pales in comparison to the mistake that is simultaneously being made elsewhere in Southern Pennsylvania. For some reason, AWVR’s worst engineer (Ethan Suplee) decides to jump off his slow-moving locomotive in order to throw a switch that will direct the train onto another track.

However, before he can climb back into the driver’s seat, the throttle somehow slips down into the “FULL” position and the half-mile-long freight train takes off and quickly accelerates to 70 m.p.h. with no one aboard. To make matters worse, the runaway diesel is on a collision course with a passenger train that is filled with school children who are on an outing that has begun from the northern end of the state.

Can what looks like certain disaster somehow be averted? Of course, that challenge falls to fearless Frank who nobly rises to the task. Frank grudgingly buries the hatchet with inexperienced Will and suppresses his bitterness about being fired.

That, in a nutshell, is the premise established practically at the outset of Unstoppable, an edge-of-your-seat roller coaster ride of a film. The thrill-a-minute adventure, based on actual events, includes a series of one near miss after another, much like the mind-numbing overstimulation that is in a typical computer game.

This film features Denzel Washington doing what he does best, namely, playing the selfless stoic. His performance is undermined a bit because his character feels so familiar. There’s definitely a “been there, done that” about the predictable goings on in the film since, just last year, Washington similarly saved the day in the remake of another thriller, The Taking of Pelham 123.

If you are willing to watch an out-of-control locomotive barrel all over Pennsylvania for over 90 minutes until the heroes finally save the day, then this is the movie for you.

Good (2 stars). Rated PG-13 for profanity and scenes of peril. Running time: 98 minutes. Studio 20th Century Fox.

For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

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