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John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service

In a 2001 incident that rail enthusiasts call the "Crazy Eights," an unmanned train carrying, along with other cargo, thousands of gallons of a highly toxic compound called molten phenol hurtled through the Ohio countryside for two hours before finally being brought to a halt. That episode provides the factual basis for "Unstoppable" (Fox), a gripping suspense tale that transcends simple entertainment by showcasing altruism in the pursuit of public safety.

Though a boxcar load of salty language indicates this is not a ride for the kids, adult viewers will find the proceedings kept on track by positive underlying values and by the engaging human dynamic that develops among the main characters.

The fictional emergency unfolds across the Rust Belt areas of southern and central Pennsylvania after inept railroad employee Dewey (Ethan Suplee) makes a series of corner-cutting mistakes that leave a 39-car freight train rolling along at full speed with no one onboard.

Though competent yardmaster Connie Hooper (Rosario Dawson) tries to cope with the situation, she is soon overwhelmed by Dewey's lack of candor about the accident and by the wrong-headed schemes of her supervisor Galvin (Kevin Dunn). A smarmy executive, Galvin is more concerned about limiting his company's liability than averting a catastrophe.

Through a harrowing process of elimination—early efforts to stop the speeding vehicle result in injury and death—veteran engineer Frank Barnes (Denzel Washington) and novice conductor Will Colson (Chris Pine) find themselves the only ones positioned to intercept the runaway before it reaches a twisting stretch of track running through a densely populated town. Should they fail, unlucky train 777 will almost certainly derail there, spewing its corrosive contents and exploding nearby fuel tanks.

Galvin orders Frank and Will not to interfere, but they persist, aided by the defiant Connie and by savvy Inspector Werner (Kevin Corrigan), a visiting Federal Railroad Administration official.

The initial hostility that divides the main duo—Frank resents young newcomers like Will who consistently displace more experienced workers like himself, while Will feels Frank won't give a rookie a break—is swiftly dissolved by their shared sense of mission.

Bolstered by adept performances and by the amusing asides in Mark Bomback's script, director Tony Scott crafts a diverting entertainment solidly founded on Frank and Will's heroic selflessness as they put their lives on the line for the many strangers whose well-being is in jeopardy.

This nail-biter is further enhanced by themes supporting marriage and family. Thus, Will struggles to overcome the consequences of his uncontrollable, sometimes violent jealousy, which has caused his wife to leave him, while widower Frank works to maintain his relationship with his much-loved daughters.

The film contains a few scenes of graphic injury, about a dozen uses of profanity, at least one instance of the F-word and frequent crude or crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

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Francis of Assisi: Francis of Assisi was a poor little man who astounded and inspired the Church by taking the gospel literally—not in a narrow fundamentalist sense, but by actually following all that Jesus said and did, joyfully, without limit and without a sense of self-importance. 
<p>Serious illness brought the young Francis to see the emptiness of his frolicking life as leader of Assisi's youth. Prayer—lengthy and difficult—led him to a self-emptying like that of Christ, climaxed by embracing a leper he met on the road. It symbolized his complete obedience to what he had heard in prayer: "Francis! Everything you have loved and desired in the flesh it is your duty to despise and hate, if you wish to know my will. And when you have begun this, all that now seems sweet and lovely to you will become intolerable and bitter, but all that you used to avoid will turn itself to great sweetness and exceeding joy." </p><p>From the cross in the neglected field-chapel of San Damiano, Christ told him, "Francis, go out and build up my house, for it is nearly falling down." Francis became the totally poor and humble workman. </p><p>He must have suspected a deeper meaning to "build up my house." But he would have been content to be for the rest of his life the poor "nothing" man actually putting brick on brick in abandoned chapels. He gave up all his possessions, piling even his clothes before his earthly father (who was demanding restitution for Francis' "gifts" to the poor) so that he would be totally free to say, "Our Father in heaven." He was, for a time, considered to be a religious fanatic, begging from door to door when he could not get money for his work, evokng sadness or disgust to the hearts of his former friends, ridicule from the unthinking. </p><p>But genuineness will tell. A few people began to realize that this man was actually trying to be Christian. He really believed what Jesus said: "Announce the kingdom! Possess no gold or silver or copper in your purses, no traveling bag, no sandals, no staff" (Luke 9:1-3). </p><p>Francis' first rule for his followers was a collection of texts from the Gospels. He had no idea of founding an order, but once it began he protected it and accepted all the legal structures needed to support it. His devotion and loyalty to the Church were absolute and highly exemplary at a time when various movements of reform tended to break the Church's unity. </p><p>He was torn between a life devoted entirely to prayer and a life of active preaching of the Good News. He decided in favor of the latter, but always returned to solitude when he could. He wanted to be a missionary in Syria or in Africa, but was prevented by shipwreck and illness in both cases. He did try to convert the sultan of Egypt during the Fifth Crusade. </p><p>During the last years of his relatively short life (he died at 44), he was half blind and seriously ill. Two years before his death, he received the stigmata, the real and painful wounds of Christ in his hands, feet and side. </p><p>On his deathbed, he said over and over again the last addition to his Canticle of the Sun, "Be praised, O Lord, for our Sister Death." He sang Psalm 141, and at the end asked his superior to have his clothes removed when the last hour came and for permission to expire lying naked on the earth, in imitation of his Lord.</p> American Catholic Blog The joy of the Gospel is not just any joy. It consists in knowing one is welcomed and loved by God…. And so we are able to open our eyes again, to overcome sadness and mourning to strike up a new song. And this true joy remains even amid trial, even amid suffering, for it is not a superficial joy: it permeates the depths of the person who entrusts himself to the Lord and confides in him.

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