Shortly after the August 2009 release of Tony Scott and Denzel Washington’s version of The Taking of Pelham 123, the pair embarked on their next film, Unstoppable. Making that choice was taking a chance. Unstoppable and The Taking of Pelham 123 both had train plots. The former, a remake of the crime drama from 1974, was poorly received by critics.
The A.V. Club’s Nathan Rabin referred to it as “bracingly horrible.” Ex-New York City mayor Ed Koch expressed his dissatisfaction with the decision in an article for The Atlantic. In 2009, Pelham produced less than $70 million domestically on a budget of $100 million, while The Hangover was the highest grossing film of the summer.
I think Denzel and Tony wanted to prove they could get it properly, Lew Temple adds. In an interview, the New Orleans native who plays Ned in Unstoppable expressed “fear that [Unstoppable] was going to be the rural Taking of Pelham. Nothing like that happened at all.
Unstoppable, an old-school action-adventure based on the CSX-8888 incident of May 2001, is based on actual events. The movie, which was released in theatres in November 2010 and was nominated for an Academy Award, follows a group of railroad workers as they seek to halt an autonomous runaway train.
Washington’s role as Frank Barnes, a seasoned train engineer, marks their seventh time working together. Chris Pine, hot off his success as Captain Kirk in Star Trek, plays new conductor Will Colson. The first shift of a new employee on another train quickly becomes a rescue mission.
As the 777 speeds through the Rust Belt, the film switches between the points of view of Barnes and Colson and their forced partnership, the dopes responsible for losing the train (Ethan Suplee as Dewey and T.J. Miller as Gilleece), the cowboy pursuing the train (Temple’s Ned), the corporate fixer (Kevin Dunn as Galvin), and the yardmaster (Rosario Dawson as Connie) tasked with orchestrating the rescue.
Connie is operating the ship with the help of the dispatcher Bunny (Kevin Chapman) and the government inspector Scott Werner (Kevin Corrigan), who apparently picked the worst day possible to check in.
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As the 777 accelerates to full speed, a train carrying schoolchildren is almost pounded. A horse trailer that got stuck on the tracks later splits in two.
Barnes and Colson narrowly avoid being hit by the oncoming 777 in the 1206. So, Barnes decides to give pursuit in the hopes of slowing down the beast, and the competition is on.