In a rail yard in Pennsylvania a total idiot called Dewey (Ethan Suplee who plays Earl’s brother Randy in My Name is Earl) screws up badly while driving a massive freight train No.777. This train is full of dangerous cargo so Dewey naturally enough doesn’t bother connecting the air brakes then jumps off the train to change points. The train speeds off without him. Disaster looms but the scale is not quite grasped as they think the train is coasting without power
We learn a bit about rookie conductor Will (Chris Pine) and experienced driver Frank Barnes (Denzel Washington). Union and company politics means Frank faces enforced retirement to make way for younger cheaper workers such as Will Colson (and of course Dewey). Will screws up by attaching five too many cars to the train but Frank keeps going instead of going back and detaching the other cars.
Connie Hooper (Rosario Dawson) the yard master gets her chief welder Ned Oldham along with Dewey and another idiot Gilleece to try and intercept the train at a siding. That’s when they realise the train is not coasting but is going full throttle and will very likely go off the rails in a heavily populated area, mostly likely into a large fuel dump in the town of Stanton just positioned right under a large S-bend in an elevated section of the track and seemingly designed to result in maximum carnage.
Before that we have a train that is full of school kids on a special train safety awareness trip and their train is heading straight for 777. The tension builds as precious little angels sing stupid rail safety songs and the driver turns into a siding and narrowly avoids blood and death for himself and all the little brats.
When 777 obliterates a horse box the media soon take an interest. Police and media helicopters buzz around the train and the company vice-president of train operations Oscar Galvin takes charge of trying to stop 777. His mad plan is getting a little train to push it from the front to slow it down enough for a helicopter to smash an ex-marine on a rope into the window of the drivers cabin. As you’d expect hitting the runaway train with a smashed up marine on rope does very little to slow it down very much. And for extra fun the little train that couldn’t derails in a ball of flames and a dead driver.
After Franks and Will’s train has a close encounter with 777 (thanks to the five extra cars) Frank comes up with a plan a little less psychotic than Galvin’s. After Galvin fails yet again with a plan to derail the train in a little town it’s all up to Frank and Will to stop 777.
I really liked the action scenes and the use of the news clips was quite well done – nice way to build up the tension by having it done by rolling news coverage. I suppose they had to get in all that character stuff as well but I wasn’t too interested in that. At first I thought Chris Pine was some sort of kiddie stalker but don’t worry, it’s just his kid and he’s separated from his wife, gun – threats – restraining order blah blah blah. Chris Pine didn‘t really convince me of any of that stuff at all. Fortunately he is okay at the action scenes.