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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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James: This James is the brother of John the Evangelist. The two were called by Jesus as they worked with their father in a fishing boat on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus had already called another pair of brothers from a similar occupation: Peter and Andrew. “He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him” (Mark 1:19-20). 
<p>James was one of the favored three who had the privilege of witnessing the Transfiguration, the raising to life of the daughter of Jairus and the agony in Gethsemani. </p><p>Two incidents in the Gospels describe the temperament of this man and his brother. St. Matthew tells that their mother came (Mark says it was the brothers themselves) to ask that they have the seats of honor (one on the right, one on the left of Jesus) in the kingdom. “Jesus said in reply, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?’ They said to him, ‘We can’” (Matthew 20:22). Jesus then told them they would indeed drink the cup and share his baptism of pain and death, but that sitting at his right hand or left was not his to give—it “is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father” (Matthew 20:23b). It remained to be seen how long it would take to realize the implications of their confident “We can!” </p><p>The other disciples became indignant at the ambition of James and John. Then Jesus taught them all the lesson of humble service: The purpose of authority is to serve. They are not to impose their will on others, or lord it over them. This is the position of Jesus himself. He was the servant of all; the service imposed on him was the supreme sacrifice of his own life. </p><p>On another occasion, James and John gave evidence that the nickname Jesus gave them—“sons of thunder”—was an apt one. The Samaritans would not welcome Jesus because he was on his way to hated Jerusalem. “When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, ‘Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?’ Jesus turned and rebuked them...” (Luke 9:54-55). </p><p>James was apparently the first of the apostles to be martyred. “About that time King Herod laid hands upon some members of the church to harm them. He had James, the brother of John, killed by the sword, and when he saw that this was pleasing to the Jews he proceeded to arrest Peter also” (Acts 12:1-3a). </p><p>This James, sometimes called James the Greater, is not to be confused with James the Lesser (May 3) or with the author of the Letter of James and the leader of the Jerusalem community.</p> American Catholic Blog Walk the talk. Show, don’t tell. Values are caught, not taught—all variations of one theme: A good example is essential for good parenting.

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