Movie Play Snapshots
|Directed by||Tony Scott|
|Produced by||Tony Scott |
|Written by||Mark Bomback|
|Starring||Denzel Washington |
|Music by||Harry Gregson-Williams|
|Editing by||Chris Lebenzon |
|Studio||Scott Free Productions |
Millbrook Farm Productions
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Release date(s)||November 12, 2010 (2010-11-12)|
|Running time||98 minutes|
After panning across some idling diesel locomotives under the opening credits, the film begins with scenes at two rail yards in different regions of Pennsylvania run by the fictional Allegheny and West Virginia Railroad (AWVR). In the Fuller yard in northern Pennsylvania, children arrive for a school field trip on rail safety. Meanwhile, in the southern Pennsylvania town of Stanton, Will Colson (Chris Pine) gets up for work, stopping to surreptitiously watch his wife put their son on the school bus. He calls her but she refuses to even answer.
Arriving at work, Colson, a conductor, gets his orders for the day and learns that he will be working with engineer Frank Barnes (Denzel Washington), with whom he has never worked before. He goes to a group of older workers, with whom he has some barbed words over their age differences, and finds Barnes among them. While he goes to punch in, the other older workers complain about being displaced by Colson, who they say got his job through family connections in the union.
Meanwhile, in Fuller, the yardmaster yells at a pair of hostlers who have been standing idle near a train to get it moved off its current track so that the schoolchildren's excursion train can use the track to get out of the yard. In a hurry, one of them, Dewey (Ethan Suplee), decides against connecting the air hose between the lead locomotive and the rest of the half-mile–long (approx. 800m) train to save time. This, the other hostler reminds him, means that the train's air brakes will only apply on the lead locomotive, but Dewey says they will connect the hoses after parking the train on another track.
Barnes and Colson meet by their locomotive for the day, where Barnes, a 28-year employee, finds out that Colson, who will be in charge of the train, is only four months out of training. He reminds Colson that if there's anything he doesn't know, he should just ask. They take the locomotive out to where they will attach their train for the day. Colson learns that a court hearing that morning ended with the extension of a restraining order preventing him from seeing his wife and son rather than a lifting, as he had hoped.
In the locomotive cab at the Fuller yard, Dewey sets the locomotive's throttle at 100% in order to enable the train's dynamic brakes. As it approaches a switch, Dewey sees that it is not set to the right track. Against the advice of the other hostler, he jumps down from the slow-moving train to line the switch properly. While he does, levers fall in the cab of their own accord. As the train has since picked up speed, Dewey is unsuccessful in his attempts to reboard. It leaves the yard and enters the main line unmanned.
After some slight setbacks at the yard due to Colson's inexperience, including picking up more cars than they had in their orders, the two leave Stanton for a zinc plant. In Fuller, the hostlers let yardmaster Connie Hooper (Rosario Dawson) know that that they have a runaway train headed into opposing traffic on the main line. Assuming the dead man's switch will trigger the brakes and turn the train into a "coaster" that stops a few miles from the yard, she calls Ned, a welder for the railroad and tells him to meet the hostlers where they can get in his truck, catch the train, and stop it.
By the time they get there, however, they realize that the train is under power and is going too fast to catch. Connie and the dispatchers work to get every train on the main line onto sidings. The train carrying the schoolchildren narrowly avoids a head-on collision. Oscar Galvin (Kevin Dunn), Connie's superior, calls her and asks her what's happening and what she's doing about it. She hasn't yet figured out how to stop the train and begins calling the state police to make sure that each of the grade crossings along the line are secured, since some of the tank cars on the runaway train contain molten phenol, a hazardous material.
On their train, Barnes and Colson hear the dispatcher's order to pull into a siding. Barnes says they can't use the siding initially assigned since the train is too long to fit in it. He asks instead if a RIP track further down the line is clear and gets permission to continue along the main line to it.
Galvin overrules Connie's suggestion to derail the train in an area of lightly populated farmland, since it would be too costly and it is still possible to stop the train. An emergency meeting of railroad executives approves another plan, but Galvin refuses to tell Connie what it is. The train's odyssey becomes a media event, followed by helicopters with continuous coverage on television and reporters at crossings in small towns. The train, picking up speed, smashes through a horse trailer caught on the tracks at one crossing.
The company's plan, to have a lashup of two locomotives enter the main line ahead of the runaway and slow it down while another employee attempts to board the runaway's locomotive from a helicopter, fails and leads to the destruction of the locomotives and the death of the veteran engineer operating them. The police abort another plan, to trigger the safety switch on the locomotive's side with close-range shotgun blasts at a grade crossing, when they realize the switch's proximity to the fuel tank. A state trooper's radar gun shows the train's speed to be 71 miles per hour (114 km/h). Barnes and Colson make into the RIP track in the nick of time, as the runaway smashes through the rearmost car of their consist.
As it passes, Barnes sees that the coupling on the last car of the runaway is open. He decides to put his locomotive in reverse and catch the runaway by coupling onto the back of it. Colson, at first reluctant, joins him. Galvin insists that Barnes, Colson, and Connie abandon the plan, but they refuse even after Galvin threatens to fire them. But Barnes doesn't care as he has already been fired by Gavin. Barnes is 72 days into his 90 days notice period.
Another attempt to stop the train with derails in a small town fails because the train is too heavy and going too fast. Evacuations begin as the train approaches Stanton, where the line crosses the town on a sharp elevated curve. Taking the curve at the runaway's current speed would result in it derailing and falling into a fuel oil tank farm, causing a major environmental disaster.
Barnes and Colson catch up with the runaway. After Colson manually couples their locomotive to the train, severely injuring his foot in the process, they begin slowing it down with their own brakes, but are unable to slow the runaway down enough to safely navigate the curve. Barnes goes out onto the train and begins setting each car's brakes manually, with Colson applying an independent brake from the chase locomotive. This slows the train down just enough to get it through the curve with precarious tilting, rather than a derailment. After coming out of the curve, however, the chase locomotive's brakes blow out and the train begins to pick up speed again.
Ned the welder catches up to the train, and Colson jumps into the back of his truck. Driving at high speed they make it to the locomotive, where Colson is finally able to get into the cab and he finally stops the train. Colson and Barnes are declared heroes, and Colson reunites with his wife and son.
In a short epilogue, it is revealed that Barnes was promoted and retired with full benefits, that Colson got back together with his wife who is now pregnant with their second child, Connie was promoted to Galvin's job, and that Dewey is now working "in the fast-food industry".
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