Saturday, November 13, 2010

Fox's "Unstoppable" vs. History Channel's "Glow Train"

Unstoppable”, from Ridley Scott (2oth Century Fox) does recall some earlier out-of-control movies like “Cassandra Crossing” and “Runaway Train”, discussed on this blog March 3, 2010. (Somehow the title also reminds me of M. Night Shyamalan’s “Unbreakable”).

The “didactic” value of the movie, of course, is to highlight the risk to the public of freight trains carrying hazmat materials through populated areas. The History Channel gave us a scenario like this with “Glow Train”, reviewed here June 24, 2008, where a train with radioactive waste derails near Las Vegas. In real life, Homeland Security has considered rerouting some trains away from the route through Washington DC and Union Station, taking it too near the Capitol. Here, the runaway freight train rambles down the mountains running from northern PA to southern (fictitious towns, as “Scranton” becomes “Stanton”, etc), with eight cars of phenol, highly flammable. A railway engineer makes a “human error” (very improbable), and a comedy of errors and cover-ups (which manager Connie (Rosario Dawson) desperately tries to make right behind her computer terminals and phones).

The film’s tag team (Frank and Will, played by Denzel Washington and Chris Pine) form a subplot, which Frank’s (“retirement home”) resenting the younger Will’s (“day care center”) taking his union job. Will has been thrown out of his home by a family court after a domestic custody dispute (itself a scary issue). They commandeer a lone locomotive and try to slow the train down from behind. The heroics mount up toward the end, where the film sometimes takes on the look of a great model railroad set.

The geography of central Pennsylvania, with its Horseshoe Bend curve down the Allegheny Front mountain, could make it prone to accidents.

In the early 1980s, I worked for a man who had previously worked in railroad information technology.

Coming from Fox, the action film with a background warning about railroad safety and hazardous cargo (particularly a potential terrorist target), provides good entertainment for and from conservatives.

Here is Fox’s link for the movie. 

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