Two are better than one, because they have
a good reward for their toil. For if they fall,
one will lift up the other; but woe to one
who is alone and falls and does not have
another to help
Even though we know that such action-thrillers follow a formula, they almost always keep us gripping the arms of our seats while leaning forward. Tony Scott, whose recent film, the remake of “The Taking of Pelham 123, also featured a train, but one that was stationary under the streets of New York City where it and its passengers were being held captive by ruthless bank robbers, has set up just about everything that constitutes a nail-biting thriller.
Pair up a seasoned engineer concerned that his rookie conductor is making several mistakes during their first trip together; add a far away foolish engineer misjudging things so badly when he jumped out of the cab to manually change a switch that his freight train with its throttle open runs away from him; have an excursion train of school children in the way; mix in a large load of toxic chemicals carried by the train, a populated area where the train probably will crash, and an arrogant railroad manager who is more concerned with property loss than casualties, and you have a formula sure to please an audience.
The runaway train picks up speed as it rushes from northern Pennsylvania in a southeastern direction that eventually will bring it to a large city with a large S-curve where it is certain to crash, causing untold destruction and death. As Rosario Dawson’s dispatcher says, it’s a missile “as big as the Chrysler Building.” The company’s attempts to lower a crewman by helicopter fails, as well as other ventures, leaving the matter to the pair played by Denzil Washington and Chris Pine. They chase after the train to try to couple up with it and slow it down with their engine. This is a time when experience, trust, the willingness to buck authority, and working as a team are paramount. The villain in this film is a behemoth machine out of control. Escapism at its best!