You would think that in this
technological era, we wouldn’t have a mechanical disaster like a
runaway train. But we did.
And it wasn’t that long ago, in southern
Apparently, it was the result of a
“Perfect Storm” combination of factors, mostly
human error, caused by distractedness, inattention, key people
being away from their posts at critical moments, and just plain old
incompetence. It didn’t
help that the union was in the midst of rancorous negotiations with the
railroad company, which itself was a strange amalgam of old-world
railroad engineers in overalls, and preppie analysts constantly
evaluating “risk management.”
It started when a fat brakeman got
off a rolling train to pull a switch on a siding, then couldn’t catch
up to his locomotive, having left the controls on “max,” because, he
said, it was a long train. The
“coaster” quickly becomes a runaway, and when the dispatcher finally
arrives from the donut shop, it’s already a crisis.
Corporate, of course, spends most of its time finger-pointing and
threatening and blame-gaming, but their posturing isn’t helping right
now. Not even their
attempts at a dramatic helicopter drop or a “fail-safe” derailment
curb manage to slow down this half-mile-long unguided missile.
Worse, it’s carrying hazardous material.
And the only two employees anywhere around it are Will and Frank.
Will (Chris Pine) is a rookie conductor, barely four months out
of training, who’s also distracted by a visitation squabble with his
estranged wife. Frank (Denzel
Washington) seems the perfect veteran engineer for the daunting task,
but he, too, has his distractions:
72 days ago he was sent his 90-day notice of forced early
retirement with limited benefits. This,
after 28 years on the job, and his wife had died of cancer a couple of
years before, and his two daughters were already out of the house.
He tells Will that sometimes he goes home and tells his wife
about his day, anyway. And
he advises Will to go call his estranged wife and try to patch things up
with her, because there won’t be many more chances.
It looks like there won’t be
many more chances for this unlikely pair of heroes, either, but we are
rooting for them as they rise up like ordinary people will sometimes do
in extraordinary circumstances. It’s
a feel-good movie that’s a true story, and an action/adventure with
just the right combination of broader scope and human touch.
And best of all, the whole family can watch it together:
a great Friday night popcorn flick.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor,
Grace Presbyterian Church,