: Denzel Washington, Chris Pine, Rosario Dawson Director
: Tony Scott Genre
: Action, DramaRated
: MRunning Time
: 99 minutesSynopsis
: Inspired by actual events, "Unstoppable" is an adrenaline rush fueled by director Tony Scott's signature mark of propulsive action rooted in the reality of ordinary people placed in extraordinary circumstances. A veteran train engineer (Denzel Washington) and a young conductor (Chris Pine) race the clock to stop an unmanned runaway train - effectively a missile the size of a skyscraper -- and prevent disaster in a heavily populated area. Release Date
: January 6th, 2011
Inspired by actual events, Unstoppable is an adrenaline rush fueled by director Tony Scott's signature mark of propulsive action rooted in the reality of ordinary people placed in extraordinary circumstances. A veteran train engineer (Denzel Washington) and a young conductor (Chris Pine) race the clock to stop an unmanned runaway train - effectively a missile the size of a skyscraper -- and prevent disaster in a heavily populated area.
October 12 begins with the usual early morning rush at Fuller Yard in Wilkins, Pennsylvania. The night shift is eager to head home and the members of the morning crew are dragging themselves in, coffee in hand. As two hostlers take a break to wolf down breakfast, they are interrupted and asked to move one of the newest trains on the line to a different track. It seems Fuller Yard is going to host a field trip of elementary school kids headed down from Olean, New York. Annoyed but unfazed, the yard workers begin the task of moving the 777, an absolute beast of a train, when one of them makes the ill-fated decision to take a short cut to get the job done faster. But faster is not always safer and the new locomotive outfitted with the most modern computerised bells and whistles, carrying 39 cars, transforms into a monster coaster in the blink of an eye.
200 miles down the line, at Mingo Yard in Brewster, the day begins with the same routine. Before heading off on their runs, the old guard of railroaders shares a last cup of coffee over paperwork. As they trade war stories of lackluster performances by rookie conductors and brakemen Frank Barnes discovers his conductor is Will Colson, a new political hire. Frank is none too pleased but he keeps his opinion to himself. Once aboard the 1206, a tough older 6-axel engine with lots of miles, Frank is all work, making it plainly obvious to Will that his 28 years of service will trump Will's four months on the job every time.Despite the petty aggravations of the day, no one at either yard would ever suspect the afternoon could turn into the terrorising ordeal it was about to become - one that would test the mettle of two everyday men who become extraordinary heroes.
Filmmaker Tony Scott is a master of motion picture events - such as "Crimson Tide," "Man on Fire," "True Romance" and "Top Gun" - which mix non-stop action with finely-tuned characters that bring audiences even further into the action and drama. His latest effort, Unstoppable, adds to that rich legacy, again demonstrating Tony Scott's formidable talents in blending action, character, drama and emotion. "It's a movie that starts out at fifty miles an hour and ends up at 150 mph; it's speed-on-speed," says Tony Scott, who admits Unstoppable was the toughest project, mentally and physically, he's undertaken. But Tony Scott is referring to more than the logistical challenges of filming aboard a vehicle hurtling down a railroad track at 50 miles per hour or the film's heart-stopping stunt sequences. Sitting in the same 6 x 9 foot space aboard the blue and yellow 1206 for most of the film brought its own set of obstacles and keeping the characters interesting inside that box was one of the most daunting tasks for the director. "This was the most challenging and brilliant adventure I've ever encountered because I had to tell a character story inside something going very, very fast," says Tony Scott. "It's always about the performances - how I look at these two characters in a way I haven't done before and be honest to who they are."
In keeping with the film's realistic tone and characters, Tony Scott largely eschewed the use of CGI, opting instead for real action and the skills of some of the industry's most inventive stunt people.
Great drama coupled with Tony Scott's dramatic flair and his visual expertise makes for a wild and captivating ride. "The real challenge with Unstoppable was capturing the character evolutions of Frank [Denzel Washington] and Will [Chris Pine], who are undertaking this monumental journey trying to stop this runaway train," says the director. "But first, they must come to terms with one another and resolve their differences."
Before Tony Scott put his unmistakable stamp on the project, producers Julie Yorn and Mimi Rogers presented the idea for Unstoppable to writer Mark Bomback, who began with the concept of a train as the villain of the story. "Like a lot of children, I liked trains as a kid," says Mark Bomback, "but I certainly wasn't a fan. I started researching the film from a place of complete ignorance. Trains are ubiquitous, but you never think about how the entire country depends on them so it seemed like an interesting setting for a film. Trains haven't been done in a while so I thought this might be a new way to introduce them; they're so old school, they're new school."
Mark Bomback's chief goal in telling the story was to maintain a relentless pace. "We wanted audiences to think that Frank or Will could die at any moment and the movie would still continue," says Mark Bomback, "because audiences would understand the train can't derail until, at best, the end of the film. So the question is, how do you maintain that sense of tension? I did my best to stay within the bounds of realism and not go too far."
Mark Bomback worked on the script on and off for two years before Tony Scott came aboard. The director says it was the first, and likely the only time, in his career when a studio took on his first draft with no notes before beginning to assemble their cast and crew. "Mark Bomback's script was the best page-turner I've ever read," says Tony Scott. "I flew through it. The characters became stronger as the story unfolded and the action took care of itself; it has a forward momentum and it never lets up."
Tony Scott turned once again to his muse, Academy Award® winner Denzel Washington, to headline his small but select cast. Unstoppable is their fifth collaboration, following "Crimson Tide," "Man on Fire," "Déjà Vu" and "The Taking of Pelham 123." Says Tony Scott of Washington: "In every movie Denzel Washington and I have done together, he's always tapped into a different aspect of his personality. "Within each of us, and at a given point in our lives, are different personalities, and Denzel Washington is brilliant in tapping into the personality right for a given project."
"I trust Tony Scott, who's a great filmmaker and I enjoy working with him," says Denzel Washington. "We have a good shorthand now; I know what he's after and he knows how I like to work, and we leave each other alone to do the work. Tony Scott's very enthusiastic and his team loves working for him, so with him, it's easy."
Denzel Washington found much to explore in the huge gulf - encompassing age, economics, experience and attitude - between his character, Frank, and Chris Pine's Will. "This is also a story about an age gap," Denzel Washington asserts, "how many businesses today are caught in an economic downturn, and running the old guys out to bring in younger, cheaper labor to take the place of more experienced personnel. Basically Frank is teaching the new guy how to do his job so that he can take his place," explains Denzel Washington. "Needless to say, Frank's not too happy about that."
The new guy is Will Colson, played by Chris Pine. Denzel Washington suggested Tony Scott cast the "Star Trek" headliner, and Tony Scott agreed, especially after catching Chris Pine's acclaimed work in the play "Farragut North." As a young man whose life seems to be unraveling, Will is unsure about most everything. Reluctantly, he takes a job in the family business as a new recruit for the railroad AWVR.
"Will comes from a family of railroaders," Chris Pine says. "Having grown up in the shadow of a family who are now bigwigs at the railroad, Will left to make his own way, but when it turned out to be harder than he expected, he returned to his home town only to realise that coming home was even more difficult. Even though he's hesitant, he's going to make the best of working for the railroad . . . for now."
Separated from his wife and son after his temper got the better of him, Will goes to work on that fateful day with no particular agenda. He just wants to get through it. "Will's journey is that of a selfish guy who wanted to find success on his own," says Chris Pine. "He feels like he failed so there's a lot of self-loathing going on. That, coupled with pressure from his family, and an apprenticeship with resentful guys who make the job as difficult as possible, it just becomes a volcano."
For all his bluster about the younger generation being different, Frank Barnes is living a similar existence. Estranged from his two daughters with whom he wants desperately to reconnect, Frank Barnes just wants to put in his time at work, keep his head down and get the job done. "Like Will, Frank Barnes is someone who has stopped valuing his own worth, albeit for very different, more professional reasons," says Mark Bomback. "He's amassed a lot of knowledge and skill through the years and suddenly he's faced with the idea that maybe that isn't worth nearly as much as he thought it was."
"Frank doesn't have anything against Will personally," says Denzel Washington, "it's just that he, and guys like him, are the reason that older railroaders are being fired. It doesn't help that Will's brother and uncles are all big shots in the business. As Frank describes it, Will's just a member of the Lucky Sperm Club.
"Frank doesn't even acknowledge the new guys," he continues. "He doesn't see them, they don't exist. But as it happens, on this particular day, Frank is assigned a new kid to be his conductor. As the engineer, Frank's just the driver, but he feels like the 1206 is his train."
Their day together aboard the 1206 begins on a rough note, with both men focused on personal issues rather than the job at hand. But before half the day is over, they realise they must put their issues with family and with one another aside and concentrate on how to stop the powerful train heading their way. As the story unfolds and the danger becomes more apparent, the two strangers carve out a fast friendship on a deeper level than they ever would have expected. Even more unexpected and poignant is how each man takes stock of his life and comes to know himself as never before. "Frank and Will must come together in these adverse, intense circumstances," says Denzel Washington. "They discover more about themselves because they have to decide: are they going to do something about this or not? Frank knows he has to try and help, but Will isn't sure at first, so he's got to man up."
"These two guys are in the wrong place at the wrong time," says Mark Bomback. "It's a do or die situation. The young conductor has enough experience to know that there is no way going after the locomotive is safe, but is he confident enough in someone who's been working on the railroad for 30 years to believe that they can accomplish Frank's plan? That's where their conflict reaches a head and they both realise they have to work together."
"When Will is thrown into this extraordinary situation, he has to decide whether to take charge, try to save these towns and be selfless," says Chris Pine. "That's what Frank really teaches him. Will is so embroiled in his own internal battle that it takes an external situation to force him out of his own skin, to be active, to stop thinking about himself and do something for others, which is what actually ends up helping him in the end.
"Will is pretty obstinate," adds Chris Pine. "He thinks he knows best, but we find out that he's wrong and Frank is 100 percent right about everything. He finds that the old guard, or old heads as the real railroaders call them, do know a thing or two and he finally respects Frank and the very things he took for granted."
Denzel Washington does not impress easily, but he describes Chris Pine as someone who is going places and has a real future. Chris Pine, in turn, took the lessons presented by watching Denzel Washington work and stored them away for future use. "Denzel Washington pushes and pushes you to do a better job," says Chris Pine. "He's complicated in all the best ways and he brings so much to the table that each take is different, each has a distinctive quality and if you're present and paying attention, you can play off those nuances which gives the characters more depth. Denzel Washington's the best at what he does, so I took my cues from him."
As Frank and Will face imminent danger, their one solace is the voice of Connie Hooper (Rosario Dawson) over the radio. Stationed back at Mingo Yard, where the runaway locomotive began as a simple coaster, Connie Hooper is a voice of reason and direction throughout the chaos. "Connie represents a different face of the railroad," says Mark Bomback. "She is someone who could eventually become part of the executive ranks because she's extremely capable and used railroading as an opportunity to take control of her fate."
"Connie is a strong woman," says actress Rosario Dawson. "She is confident and assertive without being arrogant or bitchy which is an absolute necessity if you want to be successful in a traditionally male role. The train yard is definitely a man's world.
"It was a challenge to make sure that Connie's voice could be heard by all the men around her," she continues. "Not just the men she supervises, but also the corporate executives. She has to be heard and accepted because lives are always at stake in her job."
Even before Connie learns that a train has left her yard unmanned that brisk October morning, her day is off to a less than stellar start. As she arrives late for work, she encounters an insipid safety inspector from the Federal Railroad Administration sent to assist her in hosting a field trip of elementary school children learning about train safety, a time-consuming endeavor about which she is wholly unenthusiastic. When the assistant yardmaster finds humor in her misery, she's further discouraged and realises this day is going to be particularly long. If she only knew.
"She's the voice of reason in very dramatic circumstances," adds Rosario Dawson. "Even though she has to follow the protocol outlined in some dusty manual, she has to get a grip, think on her feet and move forward and make decisions with a confidence she doesn't necessarily have when it comes to a train the size of the Chrysler Building moving like a missile into dense population."
All three lead actors admit that the Unstoppable train - the 777 - steals every scene. "The 777 is the real star of the movie," says Denzel Washington with characteristic nonchalance. "It's the shark in 'Jaws.' It's the monster in the room that's going to destroy people, towns -- anything and everything in its path. Chris Pine and I are just side men. It's all about the train, that's why it's called Unstoppable."
"The train is also very representative of what's happening in Will's life," adds Chris Pine. "In the beginning everything looks like it's going well and suddenly everything falls apart faster and faster.""We call [the train] 'The Beast Triple-7," says Tony Scott. "It has a voice. It's like the shark in 'Jaws' or the car in [Stephen King's tale of a haunted vehicle that terrorises a community] 'Christine'. We created a voice for The Beast in post-production."
Frank, Will and Connie are not alone in their battle to stop the Beast. Connie is helped by her assistant yardmaster, Bunny, played by Kevin Chapman, and Werner, a nerdy, seemingly out-of-place safety inspector, played by Kevin Corrigan, who just happens to be visiting Fuller Yard that fateful morning.
"Connie, Bunny and Werner are looking at a wall of blinking lights," explains Rosario Dawson. "Every one of those lights is someone's home, a farm, a school, a business. Frank and Will are out there watching the actual houses and businesses blur past them. They're driving backwards down the track in a train that's rattling so much it's almost falling apart. But they don't need us to be scared for them; they need us to provide information so that they can make educated choices. Each group has its vision of what it's experiencing and it's only by communicating that the two worlds blend."
After Connie discovers a coaster has left the yard, her immediate instinct is to call in the help of another railroader with feet on the ground, welder Ned Oldham played by Lew Temple. Ned is a social butterfly who loves to entertain the ladies with stories of derring-do, but when it comes to his job, he is all business.
"Ned's a frustrated armchair engineer," describes Lew Temple. "He carries himself with a lot of bravado and style and he has the propensity to embellish what he does on the railroad but when the opportunity arises where he can actually save the day, that's all he needs. Connie gives him his marching orders and he doesn't stop. He goes through roadblocks, he drives off-road; he becomes the cavalry. He may be a little over the top, but at the critical time, he shows up. The ability for humans to rise above themselves, that's what's really great about this story."About the Production
A longtime veteran of action films, Denzel Washington knows exactly how far he wants to take his stunt work. With nothing to prove after dozens of movies, he is very clear about what he will and will not do, and as a director himself, he knows what is required in terms of close-up action. But even Denzel Washington was sucked in to be a part of the film's elaborate stunt work by Tony Scott's charm and passion for verisimilitude. "I must be insane," Denzel Washington laughs, trying to explain why on earth he agreed to run across the top of a moving train for one of the film's many action set pieces. "The train is going down the track at 50 miles an hour, I'm running across the top, a helicopter is hovering ten feet above me, I'm hanging off the side; it's crazy! I was very happy when my stuntman left town because I knew Tony Scott wouldn't be asking me to do his job anymore," he jokes.
Tony Scott first asked Denzel Washington to run across a low platform train car made to look like the top of the train. Slowly but surely Denzel Washington became comfortable with the movement and before he knew what was happening, Tony Scott switched the stakebed for an actual train car rigged with a harness and pulley system. "Tony Scott is very slick; he didn't say anything," recalls Denzel Washington. "They warmed me up and before I knew it, I ended up on top of the train. Trains are a lot taller than you'd imagine. And those helicopter pilots [Alan Purwin and Fred North] were slaloming between trees and train cars, up and down and all around. As Chris Pine says, 'those are some urine-provoking moments,'" he laughs. [Stuntman Clay Donahue Fontenot doubled Washington for the more dangerous gags the studio (and insurance) would not permit.]
"When you read a script, you forget that you actually have to do what's written on the page," says Chris Pine. "Whether that means that every scene you're in takes place in the cab of a train, or whether your character jumps from the back of a truck driving 50 miles an hour onto a train that's going even faster."
In one harrowing scene, Will valiantly struggles to couple the knuckles of two moving cars while being pelted by a freight car full of grain. "My stunt double, Daniel Stevens, was incredible," he says. "He slipped the first time and had to use his upper body strength not to get dragged under the ballast, but he did it five times!"
In another scene, Chris Pine was strapped into the bed of a pickup truck traveling along a road parallel to the track - simulating his stunt double's jump from the truck onto the train. Even though the production would not permit Chris Pine to perform the actual stunt, he did have to climb onto a metal toolbox mounted in the bed and fake the jump. "I just had to trust the stunt driver and hang on for dear life," he recalls. "I had bugs and gnats in my face, and even though I'm only faking the jump, there's the stress of knowing that Tony has 40 cameras going and a helicopter hovering overhead. Of course I want to do a good job and play to the right camera, so there was a second there when I was catapulted off the back and thank goodness the harness caught me."
"Obviously the biggest challenge in performing any stunt was the train," says stunt coordinator Gary Powell. "Whether it was a stunt double or an actor, we took the same precautions because if someone falls, that train is not stopping. From the cast iron wheels spinning in your face to the ear splitting noise of metal on metal, when you have a couple of tons of steel moving 40 miles per hour down the track, it's all very intimidating. But the stunts we did for this were real, which is rare these days with so much CGI. We did the movie old school with real stuntmen jumping from a truck onto a moving train, running across the top and hanging off the side with the ballast inches from someone's head; they were all proper stunts."
Denzel Washington and Chris Pine, like their director, extensively researched the world in which they were about to be immersed. Not only did the two actors spend time with Scott and screenwriter Mark Bomback discussing characters and story arc, both actors haunted rail yards for weeks in order to understand the various jobs from yardmaster to conductor, and learning the ropes from real professionals - not simply the terminology but real, hands-on experience at driving a locomotive and some of the most dangerous work, coupling and uncoupling individual cars.
After committing to a project, Tony Scott turns first to production designer Chris Seagers and location manager Janice Polley to help weave a visual tapestry. He begins his process by pulling together images that remind him of the look, texture and emotion he wants for the film. For Tony Scott, who is an artist and painter, these images explain what words cannot convey.
Chris Seagers' first concern was finding the right trains. "Obviously there were many issues, but the trains themselves were our top priority,' he says, "the size, the look, the color. That, in turn, made us conscious of the time of year we'd be shooting, so color became paramount. We had to see how the two trains played against one another. Before we could really look at anything from an artistic angle, we had to consider the political issues within the train world because every company has its own look. Then we began sourcing trains, making sure we had the correct type of train. Most of us think a train is a train is a train, but once you get involved, you discover how many types and models there are. When the railroads buy them new from the manufacturer, they trick them out the way they want, for their own specific needs.
"We ended up leasing four 777s and turning them all into blind drive trains," he continues. "We did the same thing with one of the 1206s which had to be operated via remote control whether the driver was on or off the train. Given that the 1206 is a much smaller, more compact model, we used the same kind of mesh screens that advertisers drape over buses. All you see from the outside is the paint job of the ad across the bus, you can't see inside, which worked pretty effectively."
Chris Seagers' team built many sets pieces that resembled what he calls "bits and pieces" of the 1206 and 777 engines. "It was a bit like a jigsaw puzzle," he says. "When it became clear that we couldn't do certain scenes and stunts on the real trains, we had to make sections of engines and different cars and mount them on our high-rail vehicle so that it would resemble the train, but we had to devise each piece so that it worked from behind the train or locomotive. We could never use anything in front of a moving train; we always had to tail it."
As the production crew arrived in Canton, Ohio, Seagers and his painters worked feverishly to complete the 1206 and the rest of the AWVR fleet set to work the first day of production. As shooting progressed, the trains became dirtier and showed the normal wear and tear of travel as well as the appropriate stages of damage described in the script.
"Initially, Tony Scott showed me pictures of Montana," says associate producer and supervising location manager Janice Polley, a longtime Tony Scott associate, "the mountains, the craggy rock, the open plains, like something from one of his Marlboro commercials. But then he saw a photo of the elevated track of the Wheeling & Lake Erie line where it curves in Bellaire, Ohio. The rest of the locations evolved from there.
"He was also inspired by the look of the Rust Belt," she explains, "but he didn't want the industrial look to be too heavy handed. The idea that the train would travel through beautiful country into these small towns that had seen better days was much more interesting to him."
Janice Polley and her staff were somewhat limited in their search when they discovered that all of the larger railroads were unavailable. Once they found smaller railroads willing and able to rearrange train schedules, the locations department began scouting in earnest. Some of the most important sequences in the script take place on a siding, the area where a train can safely pull off the main track, similar to a turnout area on a highway.
Principal photography began in Brewster, Ohio at the Brewster Rail Yard just south of Canton on Monday, August 31, 2009. After a week of filming at the Wheeling & Lake Erie Railroad yard, the cast and crew headed north to Pennsylvania, setting up offices in Bradford, Pennsylvania about five miles south of the Pennsylvania/New York border. Every day the crew would travel to remote areas of the WNYP (Western New York & Pennsylvania) freight track, some more than an hour's drive into the Pennsylvania countryside to towns like Port Allegany, Eldred, Turtlepoint, Blanchard and Emporium as well as north to Olean, New York. On October 10, the company moved their base to State College (home of Penn State) where the weather seemed to turn frigid overnight. Central Pennsylvania experienced a freak snow storm at the end of the first week of filming which shut down production for several days. Acre upon acre of brightly colored hillsides, miles of breathtaking reds, oranges and yellows, turned a muddy brown as the leaves froze on the trees and fall turned to winter overnight. Here, the company used the tracks of the Nittany Bald Eagle, which stretches from Tyrone to Lock Haven, servicing Port Matilda, Martha's Furnace, Milesburg and Bellefonte, PA. The company took advantage of the small railroad's hospitality and used every hamlet available. Next was a move south to several border towns in southeastern Ohio along the Wheeling & Lake Erie Railroad, including Bellaire, Martin's Ferry, Mingo Junction and Steubenville. While shooting in the area, most of the crew stayed in Wheeling, West Virginia, (some at the beautiful Oglebay Resort) or nearby in St. Clairsville, Ohio where Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania meet. The final weeks of production were spent at the Mogul Mind Studio space in downtown Pittsburgh. Production wrapped principal photography on December 18.
In Emporium, the company shot an actual train derailment, a huge special effects sequence that closed the main intersection of the small hamlet for more than five hours.
"I was lucky to have all those toys to be able to shoot in as real a situation as possible," says Tony Scott. "We also had plenty of helicopters in many scenes, two of which had cameras filming all the time. Shooting on the actual train helps the audience to sense what it's like for the characters out in the real elements. You can't get that kind of energy shooting on a stage."
The company used eight locomotives and about 60 individual train cars when all was said and done, all of which were maintained on a consistent basis with brake changes and regular inspections, as typically occurs in the industry. Working on the movie was akin to operating a small railroad. Because of the inclement weather, long working hours and the overall demands on the trains for filming, the engineers decided to keep the locomotives running 24/7.
As the company moved from location to location, so the train department moved their small railroad. Like planes, automobiles and trucks, each engine and individual car has its own identifying number, no two are alike. In order not to confuse federal regulation officials with the various doubles of the two locomotives and some of the freight cars, Chris Seagers' art department created large magnetic placards with the actual number of every car and its home reporting mark.
Director of photography Ben Seresin was in charge of the day-to-day mechanics of shooting the film. Unstoppable is Ben Seresin's first collaboration with Tony Scott, but it was clear from the moment they met that Ben Seresin would have to keep up with Tony Scott's intense pace. "Tony Scott's films have a very specific dynamic," Ben Seresin says. "He likes bold imagery and his style of shooting lends itself to the kinds of movies he makes. He is very organised, he understands lighting and he has an enthusiasm that's boundless. He goes 100 percent until the very last shot every day.
"He also gets up at about 2:00 a.m. every morning to draw detailed storyboards of every shot," laughs Ben Seresin, "so the payoff for me is that he's made a lot of his decisions about the visuals before he comes to set and he knows exactly what he wants. The challenge is how to be able to give him what he wants on a moving train."
Every day the camera crew would set up six to twelve cameras on the train, on nearby stationary platforms and along the track. If the sequence entailed a 10-minute scene, the train might have to travel five miles down the track which would necessitate even more camera set-ups. Every scene was different and every camera had to be calibrated separately, one at a time, in order to capture the accurate exposure necessitated by that specific camera location.
"We'd travel through six different exposures and six different angles in one run," says Ben Seresin, "so the scale of your shooting arena becomes massive. Trying to communicate with my crew who were spread out down the track for miles only exacerbated the complexity of the situation."
Although the majority of scenes in the film are exteriors, Tony Scott and Ben Seresin followed the same natural color palette throughout the production, including the interiors. "We didn't want anything to look too slick or stylised,' says Ben Seresin. "The story takes place in the real world and travels from a train yard through beautiful countryside into a rather decayed part of the country and we thought the look should stay grounded in each of those locations."
Unstoppable takes place in one day with some of the biggest action unfolding within a two-hour time frame. The company shot for three and a half months, from late summer into autumn and winter, seasons in which the weather is arguably the most diverse and erratic.
"The change in seasons obviously posed issues," admits Ben Seresin. "There's no doubt the story starts with green leaves on the trees and by the end there was snow, but it gives you a sense of transition," he says, "the same way that one can drive through the countryside and suddenly experience severe weather but just as quickly, you'll turn the corner and come upon a valley blazing in sunshine. It's the same thing. Because the train is traveling, these changes actually help to create a sense of distance and of being on a journey."
In tandem with their ground cameras and the four principal cameras on the train, Ben Seresin and Tony Scott also used high-speed tracking vehicles like the Pursuit System Porsche Cayenne camera car, motorcycle rigs, quad rigs, and two helicopter rigs flown by Alan Purwin and Fred North, overseen by David B. Nowell, ASC, director of aerial photography, and his camera tech Scott C. Smith.
Both helicopters were outfitted with Cineflex high-def cameras. "The scope of this film is very big for the aerial unit," explains David B. Nowell. "We shot every day the train was running, rain or shine. Usually we shoot a few days or a week here and there. To be on set every day is very unusual especially when Tony Scott is using two helicopters as both camera and picture ships interchangeably. Whether we shot action for the main unit or as news coverage, or whether the ground cameras were covering us as part of the film itself, we were always in the air."
In one of the most intense moments of the film, the train rounds a hairpin curve but the track was strictly regulated to speeds less than 15 miles per hour. "Tony Scott really resisted resorting to any CG when it came to this type of problem," says Ben Seresin. "When you're forced into a corner, you sometimes come up with great results." He resorted to what he calls "old fashioned smoke and mirrors tricks" to increase the train's momentum.
Under Tony Scott's masterful helming, Unstoppable merges non-stop thrills with the interaction between two recognisable characters, Frank and Will, who began their day in the most ordinary way possible and ended it as heroes. And, Tony Scott concludes, the film will take audiences with Frank and Will, along for the ride. "I think this is a movie where you start out sitting in the back of your seat, and very soon you're at the edge of your seat. Unstoppable has a momentum that never lets you go."