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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Unstoppable

By
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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Martha: Martha, Mary and their brother Lazarus were evidently close friends of Jesus. He came to their home simply as a welcomed guest, rather than as one celebrating the conversion of a sinner like Zacchaeus or one unceremoniously received by a suspicious Pharisee. The sisters feel free to call on Jesus at their brother’s death, even though a return to Judea at that time seems almost certain death. 
<p>No doubt Martha was an active sort of person. On one occasion (see Luke 10:38-42) she prepares the meal for Jesus and possibly his fellow guests and forthrightly states the obvious: All hands should pitch in to help with the dinner. </p><p>Yet, as biblical scholar Father John McKenzie points out, she need not be rated as an “unrecollected activist.” The evangelist is emphasizing what our Lord said on several occasions about the primacy of the spiritual: “...[D]o not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear…. But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:25b, 33a); “One does not live by bread alone” (Luke 4:4b); “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness…” (Matthew 5:6a). </p><p>Martha’s great glory is her simple and strong statement of faith in Jesus after her brother’s death. “Jesus told her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world’” (John 11:25-27).</p> American Catholic Blog One of the difficulties we may have when our lives become unmanageable is that we find dealing with other people to be difficult and we may even struggle to maintain a relationship with God. Caring people especially can find themselves carrying unnecessary crosses as they become lost in the maze of trying to meet everyone’s crazy expectations—including their own!

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