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 Pennsylvania .
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, Greenville , Texas