WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
In small-town Pennsylvania, the railroad is shedding its older staff and the likes of old-time engineer Frank (Denzel Washington) regard rookie conductor Will (Chris Pine) with suspicion. The fact that Will’s father is a senior union guy doesn’t help him earn respect.
When Frank is paired up with Will, to take an engine to collect a load, there’s a frosty atmosphere in the cabin. Frank delights in telling the newboy everything he’s doing wrong, his own years of experience invariably always proving him to be right.
But when their controller Connie (Rosario Dawson) radios to tell them that there’s an unmanned train speeding towards them on the track, the pair have to put aside their differences and band together to survive, stop the runaway train and save the lives of the residents of a town with a rickety, curvy bridge.
WHAT’S IT LIKE?
This is a Tony Scott film – big, fast and noisy. It’s also cheesy.
For a movie which is clearly meant to be an exciting action film about a train, laden with toxins, hurtling out of control towards a dense population centre, it’s odd that most of the drama comes from the contrived home lives of our two protagonists. Everything Frank does is predicated on getting his teenaged daughters to like him and Will is determined to win back the wife who’s just taken out a restraining order on him.
There are also rather a lot of supporting characters who serve very little purpose – even while their controller Connie argues about how to handle the situation with the obstructive company apparatchik, Galvin (Kevin Dunn), there’s very little that either of them can do or say that changes what’s happening to the runaway train or the brave heroes going out of their way to stop it.
The film can’t decide whether it’s a two-hander or an ensemble – an action thriller or a character drama – leaving it feeling unfocussed and the denouement feels peculiarly anti-climactic.
With much of the film featuring supposed live news footage of the rescue attempt, there is a sense that we’re watching the events unfold on telly, rather than on the big screen, which makes it inherently less cinematic.
As a piece of artistic film-making, this is poor, but Tony Scott being Tony Scott, he manages to tug the ole heart-strings and our hearts beating just that little bit faster – you might even catch yourself shedding a tear when Will’s estranged wife watches his antics on TV and heaves with pride.