Unstoppable Information

Unstoppable is a 2010 American action thriller film directed by Tony Scott, written by Mark Bomback, and starring Denzel Washington and Chris Pine. The film, loosely based on the real-life CSX 8888 incident, tells the story of a runaway freight train, and the two men (Washington and Pine) who manage to stop it. It was Scott's final feature film before his death in 2012.

The film was released in the United States and Canada on November 12, 2010, and in the United Kingdom on November 24, 2010. It received mostly favorable reviews from film critics; it garnered a "Certified Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes based upon aggregated reviews and a rating of "Generally favorable reviews" at Metacritic. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Sound Editing at the 83rd Academy Awards, but lost to Inception.


Veteran Allegheny and West Virginia Railroad (AWVR) engineer Frank Barnes (Denzel Washington) oversees his co-worker, freshly hired conductor Will Colson (Chris Pine) as they use AWVR locomotive #1206 to run a train outside the fictional city of Stanton, Pennsylvania. Will picks up five cars too many, which they realize only after they have left the train yard.

Meanwhile, AWVR hostlers, Dewey (Ethan Suplee) and Gilleece (T.J. Miller) are ordered by dispatcher Bunny (Kevin Chapman) to move a freight train led by locomotive #777 off its current track. Dewey attempts to take shortcuts, instructing Gilleece to leave the hoses for the air brakes disconnected for the short trip. Dewey leaves the moving cab to throw a misaligned rail switch along the train's path, but is unable to climb back on as the train's throttle jumps from idle to full power. The unmanned train speeds down the main line toward the large town of Stanton. Dewey is forced to report the train as a "coaster" to Fuller yardmaster Connie Hooper (Rosario Dawson). Connie orders Dewey, Gilleece, and lead welder Ned Oldham (Lew Temple), to intercept the train at a siding. With no sign of the train, they realize that the train is speeding out of control.

Connie reports the runaway to Oscar Galvin (Kevin Dunn), vice-president of train operations for AWVR. Connie works with local police and sheriffs to ensure that each grade crossing along the line is secured. As they evaluate their options, visiting Federal Railroad Administration safety inspector Scott Werner (Kevin Corrigan) alerts them to the hazard that the molten phenol carried by eight of the train's tanker cars poses should it derail. Galvin rejects Connie's suggestion to derail the train in an area of unpopulated farmland before it enters the towns ahead, believing they can stop the train safely before then. 777 enters the farmland, where it collides with a horse trailer at a railroad crossing seconds after the horses and trainers are evacuated. As the train's odyssey becomes a media event, a lashup of two engines driven ahead of the runaway manned by veteran engineer Judd Stewart (David Warshofsky) is used to try to slow down the train, directed by Groundman (Victor Gojcaj), while AWVR employee and former U.S. Marine Ryan Scott (Ryan Ahern) is lowered to 777's cab from a helicopter. The plan goes awry, injuring Ryan when the train accelerates after he is landed on it, and the lashup locomotives subsequently derail and explode, killing Judd. The train continues racing towards Stanton.

Frank and Will are warned of the oncoming train. Due to the extra cars picked up by Will, they are forced to bypass a siding in favor of a longer Repair-In-Place track further north on the line. They make it into the track just as the runaway speeds past them, smashing through the rearmost car of their train. When Frank learns that Galvin is planning to use derailers to stop the train, he asserts that this plan will not work and instead convinces Will to join him as he unhooks 1206 and runs it long hood forward down the line to catch 777 from behind. Galvin threatens to fire Frank and Will if they continue, but Frank reveals that he was already forced into early retirement weeks ago by AWVR. Despite Galvin's demands, Connie and Scott encourage Frank and Will to continue their pursuit.

As Frank foresaw, Galvin's plan to derail the train fails, as 777 and its 39 cars are too heavy and moving too fast. Fears arise that the runaway will derail on a sharp elevated curve in Stanton and crash into fuel storage tanks, causing a major disaster; the area is evacuated as 777 approaches.

Frank and Will manage to catch up with the runaway: Will injures his foot while trying to manually couple their engine to the rear car pulled by 777, though he does succeed. Though 1206's dynamic brakes are helping to reduce the speed of 777, the train is still moving too fast for the curve. At Will's suggestion, Frank goes out onto the train and begins engaging each car's handbrakes, further reducing the speed. Soon, however, 1206's dynamic brakes blow out, and the runaway 777 begins to pick up speed again, dragging 1206 with it. But with proper timing of 1206's independent air brake, Will and Frank just manage to keep the train on the rails as it speeds through Stanton, severely tilting in the process. Though a major disaster is averted, the train is still out of control; Frank is unable to get to 777's cab due to a gap between cars too wide to jump.

With a long stretch of parallel road next to the line, Ned appears in his pickup truck, pacing alongside 1206 to allow Will to jump into the back. Will then makes a successful jump to 777 and brings the runaway to a stop, ending the crisis. Frank, Will, and Ned are celebrated as heroes, and the two reunite with their worried families, who had been watching the news coverage of events from Hooter's and their homes, respectively. As described in a pre-credit montage, Frank was promoted and is now retired with full benefits, Will is expecting a second child with his wife, Connie takes over Galvin's job, Ryan Scott recovered fully from his injuries, and Dewey is now working in the fast food industry.


  • Denzel Washington as Frank Barnes, a veteran railroad engineer.
  • Chris Pine as Will Colson, a young train conductor.
  • Rosario Dawson as Connie Hooper, a train yardmaster.
  • Lew Temple as Ned Oldham, a railroad lead welder.
  • Ethan Suplee as Dewey, a hostler who accidentally instigates the disaster.
  • Kevin Dunn as Oscar Galvin, vice-president of AWVR train operations.
  • Kevin Corrigan as Scott Werner, an FRA inspector who helps Frank, Will, and Connie.
  • Kevin Chapman as Bunny, a railroad operations dispatcher.
  • T.J. Miller as Gilleece, Dewey's friend, also a hostler.
  • Jessy Schram as Darcy Colson, Will's estranged wife.
  • David Warshofsky as Judd Stewart, a veteran engineer who dies in an attempt to slow the runaway.
  • Victor Gojcaj as Groundman, a railroad ground specialist.
  • Meagan Tandy and Elizabeth Mathis as Maya and Nicole Barnes, Frank's daughters who work as waitresses at Hooters.
  • Ryan Ahern as Ryan Scott, a railway employee and US Marine veteran of the war in Afghanistan who attempts unsuccessfully to board the runaway from a helicopter.
  • Aisha Hinds as Railroad Safety Campaign Coordinator


Unstoppable suffered various production challenges before filming could commence, including casting, schedule, location and budgetary concerns.

In June 2007, 20th Century Fox was in negotiations with Martin Campbell to direct the film, and he was attached as director, until March 2009 when Tony Scott came on board as director. In April, both Denzel Washington and Chris Pine were attached to the project.

The original budget had been trimmed from $107 million to $100 million, but Fox wanted to reduce it to the low $90 million range, asking Scott to cut his salary from $9 million to $6 million and wanting Washington to shave $4 million off his $20 million fee. Washington declined and, although attached since April, formally withdrew from the project in July, citing lost patience with the film's lack of a start date. Fox made a modified offer as enticement, and he returned to the project two weeks later.

Production was headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where the fictional railroad depicted in the movie, the "Allegheny and West Virginia Railroad," is headquartered. Filming took place in a broad area around there including the Ohio cities of Martins Ferry, Bellaire, Mingo Junction, Steubenville and Brewster, and in the Pennsylvania cities of Pittsburgh, Emporium, Milesburg, Tyrone, Julian, Unionville, Port Matilda, Bradford, Monaca, Eldred, Turtlepoint, Port Allegany and Carnegie, and also in Portville and Olean, New York. The Western New York and Pennsylvania Railroad's Buffalo Line was used for two months during daylight, while the railroad ran its regular freight service at night. The real-life bridge and elevated curve in the climactic scene are in Bellaire, Ohio. A two-day filming session took place at the Hooters restaurant in Monroeville, Pennsylvania, a Pittsburgh suburb, featuring 10 Hooters Girls from across the United States. Other interior scenes were shot at 31st Street Studios (then the Mogul Media Studios) on 31st Street in Pittsburgh. Filming began on August 31, 2009 for a release on November 12, 2010.

Filming was delayed for one day when part of the train accidentally derailed on November 21, 2009.

The locomotives used on the runaway train, 777 and trailing unit 767, were GE AC4400CWs leased from the Canadian Pacific Railway. CP #9777 and #9758 played 777 and 767 in early scenes, and CP #9782 and #9751 were given a damaged look for later scenes. These four locomotives were repainted by Canadian Pacific in standard colors following the filming, but the painted pilot warning stripes from the AWVR livery were left untouched and remain visible on the locomotives. Most of the other locomotives seen in the film, including chase locomotive #1206, and the lashup locomotives used in an attempt to stop the train, #7375 and #7346, were EMD SD40-2s leased from the Wheeling and Lake Erie Railway. #1206 was played by three different SD40-2s: W&LE #6353 and #6534, and a third unit that was bought from scrap and modified for cab shots. #7375 and #7346 were played by W&LE #6352 and #6351, which also played two locomotive "extras" (#5624 and #5580). The excursion train locomotive (#2002) was a Southwestern Pennsylvania Railroad Paducah-built EMD GP11 rebuilt from an EMD GP9. Passenger coaches carrying schoolchildren were provided by the Orrville Railroad Heritage Society.


Main article: CSX 8888 incident
Unstoppable is inspired by the CSX 8888 incident in 2001. Led by CSX Transportation SD40-2 #8888, the train left the Walbridge, Ohio rail yard on a journey through northwest Ohio with no one at the controls, after the hostler got out of the slow-moving train to correctly line a switch, mistakenly believing he had properly set the train's dynamic braking system, much as his counterpart (Dewey) in the film mistakenly believed he had properly set the locomotive's throttle.

Two of the train's tank cars contained thousands of gallons of molten phenol, a toxic ingredient of paints and dyes harmful when it is inhaled, ingested, or brought into contact with the skin. Attempts to derail it using a portable derailer failed, and police were unable to shoot out the fuel release valve, instead hitting the fuel cap. For two hours the train traveled at speeds up to until the crew of a second train coupled onto the runaway and slowly applied its brakes. Once the runaway was slowed down to 11 miles per hour, CSX trainmaster Jon Hosfeld ran alongside the train and climbed aboard, shutting down the locomotive. The train was stopped just southeast of Kenton, Ohio. No one was seriously injured in the incident.

When the film was released, the Toledo Blade compared the events of the film to the real-life incident. "It's predictably exaggerated and dramatized to make it more entertaining," wrote David Patch, "but close enough to the real thing to support the 'Inspired by True Events' announcement that flashes across the screen at its start." He notes that the dead man switch would probably have worked in real life despite the unconnected brake hoses, unless the locomotive brakes were already applied. The film exaggerates the possible damage the phenol could have caused in a fire, and he found it incredible that the fictional AWVR freely disseminated information such as employees' names and images and the cause of the runaway to the media. In the real instance, he writes, the cause of the runaway was not disclosed until months later when the National Transportation Safety Board released its report, and CSX never made public the name of the engineer whose error let the train slip, nor what disciplinary action it took.


Main article: Unstoppable (soundtrack)
The film score was composed by Harry Gregson-Williams and the soundtrack album was released on December 7, 2010.



A trailer was released online on August 6, 2010. The film went on general release November 12, 2010.

Home media

Unstoppable was released on DVD and Blu-ray on February 15, 2011.


Critical response

Unstoppable received mostly favorable reviews. Rotten Tomatoes gives it a score of 86% based on 177 reviews, with an average score of 6.9/10. The film is "Certified Fresh", and the critical consensus is: "As fast, loud, and relentless as the train at the center of the story, Unstoppable is perfect popcorn entertainment"?and director Tony Scott's best movie in years." Metacritic gives the film a score of 69% based on reviews from 32 critics indicating "generally favorable reviews".

Film critic Roger Ebert rated the film three and a half stars out of four, remarking in his review, "In terms of sheer craftsmanship, this is a superb film." In The New York Times, Manohla Dargis praised the film's visual style, saying that Scott "creates an unexpectedly rich world of chugging, rushing trains slicing across equally beautiful industrial and natural landscapes."

The Globe and Mail in Toronto was more measured. While the movie's action scenes "ha[ve] the greasy punch of a three-minute heavy-metal guitar solo", its critic felt the characters were weak. It called the film "an opportunistic political allegory about an economy that's out of control and industries that are weakened by layoffs, under-staffing and corporate callousness."

Box office

Unstoppable was expected to take in about the same amount of money as The Taking of Pelham 123, another Tony Scott film involving an out-of-control train starring Denzel Washington. Pelham took in $23.4 million during its opening weekend in the United States and Canada. Unstoppable had a strong opening night on Friday November 12, 2010, coming in ahead of Megamind with a gross of $8.1 million. However Megamind won the weekend, earning $30 million to Unstoppable 's $23.9 million. Unstoppable performed slightly better than The Taking of Pelham 123 did in its opening weekend. As of April 2011, the film had earned $167,805,466 worldwide.


The film was nominated in the Best Sound Editing category at the 83rd Academy Awards.

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