Guest Review: Rocky Mountain Express

By Philip Cosand

The last month of the year always comes as a mixed blessing. Sure there are parties and friends to see, but there is also braving the crowds, busy schedules, and year-end reports. There is much to do and less time to do it in. Ironically, Rocky Mountain Express is a film about trains traveling faster than a hundred miles an hour that reminds folks to slow down.

Rocky Mountain Express is the bygone tale of Canada’s first train route. Over five years, thousands of people worked tirelessly to build the path that would change the country. Filmed by IMAX stalwart Stephen Low (Beavers, Volcanoes of the Deep Sea, Titanica), the audience is taken through the grueling construction project that took scores of lives.

One might think that science would be absent from a historical travelogue, but the problem-solver finds much to ponder in this film. Should the workers try to build a bridge or add miles to the route by going around a deep lake? How do you keep a train safe in an area where each snow season brings 60 feet of snow? Do you take the extra fourteen miles to go around towering mountains, or do you tunnel through?

There simply was no easy answer. Patrons will shake their heads at some of the choices made by William Van Horne and A.B. Rogers. However, when confronted by nature, there are only so many choices that could have been made. The wilderness brings with it avalanches, rugged terrain, arid soil, and plenty of mountains to work through, around, and over. The highest bridge in the world (at the time of construction) was built to get through the land. There are still stone pillars in the forest, somber sentinels that stand around to remind us of plans that never paid off and solutions that failed miserably.

One gets it all in this film. There are trains that jump off the tracks. Massive slides bury people alive. And eccentric characters keep pushing the workers to make it through the next hazardous challenge that heaves into view around the bend. Then, of course, then one comes to the end destination. After an amazing helicopter view of the lake and resort area at the end of the line, one starts to think that the trip would be worth it.

Perhaps the family will want to take a trip there?

There are plenty of Christmas/holiday/seasonal films and those films have their merits, sure. But it is this slice of real life that brings a sense of calm. Miles and miles of trees decorate the serene landscape; none of them are covered in ornaments. No one will make you commute in slush and sleet–simply gasp at the snow-capped mountains and lakes. And the mixture of blues, folk, and harmonica music offers up a change of pace from the peppier soundtracks in other documentaries.

Rocky Mountain Express is calming and soothing; with the occasional loud train chugging and whistle tooting to make sure you stay on your toes. And it is also an appropriate reminder that all of our efforts can bear fruit. Like the grasshopper and the ants, we work hard at our tasks so that we can have space to party. There is a long trail to blaze before we can commute to the swanky resort at the end. Rocky Mountain Express is an interesting and scenic film worth taking in. Now you just have to find a free hour in your schedule to view it.

Philip Cosand, a volunteer film critic and longtime projectionist, worked in Pacific Science Center’s IMAX theaters for 16 years.

Theater Schedule
Dec. 4-10, 2015

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 The IMAX Experience
Rated: PG-13, Runtime: 135 min.
Fri-Wed at 1, 4, 7 and 10 p.m., also Thurs at 1, 4 p.m.

In The Heart of The Sea: An IMAX 3D Experience
Rated: PG-13. Runtime: 121 min.
Thu (Dec. 10) at 7, 9:45 p.m.

Rocky Mountain Express
Rated: G, Runtime: 45 min.
Daily at 10:30, 11:45 a.m.

Galapagos 3D: Nature’s Wonderland
Rated: G, Runtime: 45 min.
Daily at 1, 2:15, 4:45 p.m., also Fri and Mon-Thu at 11:45 a.m.

Tiny Giants 3D
Rated: G, Runtime: 45 min.
Fri and Mon-Thu at 10:30 a.m.

Hubble 3D
Rated: G, Runtime: 45 min.
Mon-Thu at 3:30 p.m

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