Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Tony Scott, 2010 (8.2*)
This is another non-stop action film with very little else to offer, but it does what it intends very well, with expert editing and Oscar®-nominated sound. Based on a true story, a half mile long train in northern Pennsylvania carrying 8 cars of a deadly flammable glue chemical becomes a runaway thanks to some boneheaded railyard employees who violate two or three major safety rules within a couple of minutes. It manages to escape the railyard unmanned with the throttle open, and is suddenly an unscheduled train on the main track barreling towards Scranton and a dangerously slow elevated curve.

Denzel Washington is a veteran train engineer and Chris Pine is a conductor in training who have just brought a load from a zinc plant onto the same main line. After narrowly avoiding the runaway head on, they decide to help rein in the runaway train. Probably the only lulls in the steamrolling narrative are when they try to allow these two to get to know each other with banal chatter about each others personal lives while they're chasing down the train from behind.

The story's realism is heightened by the constant jumping back and forth, via phones and radios, with railyard operation head Connie, played by Rosario Dawson (Sin City, Clerks II), and the corporate VP of operations, Mr. Galvin, perfectly played by Kevin Dunn. Connie is trying to weigh all options, while Galvin and the other corporate suits are always weighing their potential actions vs. the overall cost to the corporation in millions and the potential ramifications on the stock's price and market cap.

In a way, the editing and venue shifts done in almost real time reminded me of Paul Greengrass's excellent narrative of 9/11, United 93, which concentrated on the jet brought down by passengers in western Pennsylvania, but which also jumped around from air traffic controllers to NORAD to the hijackers to give the viewers a great sense of all the activity involved in a major crisis of this nature, as various officials in different locations all respond to the public threat. (NORAD was trying to get permission from the President on 9/11 to SHOOT DOWN all other airliners suspected of being hijacked, but couldn't reach him as he was in the air and incommunicado for over half an hour)

Nominated for Best Action Film by the Broadcast Film Critics, which is where it belonged, it lost to Inception, which is a better film, albeit not a realistic one like this is. This story was documented live on tv from several helicopters so it was filmed pretty accurately. Don't expect a lot but action entertainment and you won't be disappointed.

Tony Scott (photo left), brother of director Ridley Scott (Black Hawk Down, Blade Runner), is known this type of film, his others being Top Gun, True Romance, Man on Fire, Crimson Tide, Enemy of the State, and the remake of Taking of Pelham 1-2-3.

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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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