First thing’s first: What is it with Denzel Washington and trains? You’ll know what I mean shortly.
Just don’t travel to the cinema on a train to see this film. it may make you a little paranoid.
We’re introduced to two train workers who are dead set lazy and clumsy – almost like Dumb & Dumber, but without the comedy routine. Instructed to move a shipping train onto another track due to the train load of school children who are to arrive later in the day on a school excursion, they move the train without securing the air brake supply, stating they’ll do it later on. However, during the movement, the worker leaves the carriage to flip the rail switch, the throttle slips from idle to acceleration, forcing the train to move by itself and gain speed. The worker runs after the train but misses the chance the hop back on, leaving the man-less train on the run.
We then meet our two soon future action men of the film – the senior Frank Barnes (Washington) and Will Colson (Chris Pine). The newly employed Colson is paired up with veteran Barnes, learning the ropes of the train system. While trying to learn the system, Colson is juggling with his personal problems – being separated from his wife and son, while trying to work the rail. Though Barnes has his own demons – his wife passed away four years ago, he is on a thin-ice relationship with his adult daughters, forgetting their birthdays and other important family stuff. As Barnes and Colson develop their teething problems in their relationship, they continue to work, getting their train on the tracks – the same tracks that the runaway train is on.
The train yardmaster, Connie Hooper (played by Rosario Dawson) gets word on the man-less train, and tries to work out strategies to stop the train, only to realise there are no brakes on the train due to the air brake supply not being connected. With conflict ideas with her boss Oscar Galvin (Kevin Dunn), Hooper has to work ahead and clear the lines, but ahead lies the dangers – dangerous chemicals are on board the train, while a train of school children are on the line, and a dangerous rail point in the heart of the city – where if the train hits a raised corner too fast, will wipe out the town completely.
After a series of failed attempts from corporate, Barnes and Colson put their problems aside and venture to stop the train with their own train, risking their lives and save the town from destruction.
Washington and Director Tony Scott are best buddies. They’ve worked together on numerous films (Man On Fire, Deja Vu, Taking Of Pelham 123), but after this film, Washington has a problem – him and trains do not mix.
With a slow paced beginning, the heart of the story does have some action scenes, but are pretty lacklustre. Expecting more destruction and deaths is an overstatement. With some footage sped up and/or blurred to appear the trains are going hell-for-leather, you do get hooked into the suspense of “what is going to happen?”, only to be ruined when Barnes and Colson chat about their own personal bonding stories. A way of describing this flick is it was Speed 3 : Choo-Choo Time. But instead of a terrorist or criminal behind a bomb on a train, it comes down to two train staff who are downright stupid. Just don’t hold your breath for a blow-away ending. It nearly ends up being a comedy.