Saturday, November 13, 2010


Apparently, actress Heather Leigh plays the role of my wife in the new movie "Unstoppable." Actually, the official cast listing is "Findlay Reporter," and Deb's newsroom was in Lima, but since Deb still grumbles about having to chase that frickin' freight train halfway across Northwest Ohio I figure "Findlay Reporter" is close enough to the truth. That's about as close to any truth this film ever gets.

To paraphrase Alfred Hitchcock, a good story is real life with the boring parts cut out. "Apollo 13" would be pretty boring if we had to sit through the hours of waiting while Walter Cronkite interviewed NASA officials. The crew on "CSI" get their results without making us suffer the monotony of lab work. And even the best episode of "Law & Order" skates past just... how... damn... boring... a real stakeout can be. These are justifiable omissions in the name of pacing and storytelling. We, the viewer, appreciate the dissolve to the next day, or the Bang-Bang black screen graphic insert to get us to the next plot point. The story is believable, we just cut out the boring Real Life stuff.

But sometimes it seems like Hollywood cuts out all connection with Real Life altogether. It was pointed out at the time of the film's release that the opening scene in the Sylvester Stallone yarn "Cliffhanger" could only occur in real life in the perfect storm of 3 Stooges like malfunctions. this did not reassure me into going mountain climbing, but it did make me wonder if the opening scene is complete codswallop, why should I care about the rest of the story?

The movie "Unstoppable" leads the box office this weekend, and it's easy to see why. It's got the total package: Denzel Washington being heroic, lots of CGI action, and absolutely no connection with reality whatsoever. The story was inspired by a Real Life runaway train that somehow broke away in Toledo and headed down the tracks south towards Columbus. The Movie train tears through populated area in speed-blurred CGI smashing anything that gets in its way. Oh, and to up the ante, there's dangerous materials on board that will wipe out all life as we know it

OK. Here's the reality:

My wife, news reporter for WIMA radio, easily intercepted the train in Hardin County while coworkers and I back at the station wondered why they didn't just route the damn thing into Springfield, blow it up there, and do us all a favor. According to Deb, "Unstoppable" got as fast as 15mph... downhill. Bicyclists were outrunning it. Floats in the Tournament of Roses Parade pose a greater threat to pedestrians. The area the train traveled through was sparsely populated enough that railroad and other officials considered intentionally derailing the train before it could reach Bellefontaine. The main HAZMAT threat was the possibility of a diesel fuel spill from the locomotive. An engineer simply jumping on board was eventually the method used to stop the train. It ended up stopped without any loss of life or property in Kenton, Ohio, blocking a highway. As for wiping out life as we know it in Hardin County, I can't see a down side.

Finally, let me just say that, while Heather Leigh is a fine looking woman, this is not a true representation of what a real radio news reporter looks like.

In reality, this is what my wife looks like.


Oh well. Reality bites.

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