Thu 11 Nov 2010
Tony Scott and Denzel Washington are at it again, teaming up for a fifth time with “Unstoppable”. In the film, Denzel plays a longtime railroad engineer teamed up with a rookie conductor (Chris Pine) who find themselves playing John McClane – ordinary folks put into situations that thrust them into danger.
The story is based on true events. In 2001, an unmanned train spent two hours on a 66-mile trip through parts of Ohio. If anyone remembers the incident, you’ll know exactly how it ended and should refrain from telling potential film goers who don’t (unless you enjoy spoiling their fun). Of course, some dramatic license is taken as to the payload/top speed of it all and the location was changed to Pennsylvania (though still partially filmed in Ohio), but the nuts and bolts of things holds true.
Working in the film’s favor is a short run time (the 90 minute neighborhood) and the main cast. It’s hard not to like the idea of Malcolm X and Captain Kirk risking their lives to stop a runaway train. Washington and Pine share a nice chemistry and since they’re essentially the only characters who talk to each other in person up until the very end (almost every other conversation is done over the phone or radio), that’s vital.
Tony Scott still employs many of his trademark visual acrobatics: moving the camera around like a Wonkavator, playing with the frame rate (though this time he toned it down) and making sure that the score and sound effects are ramped up to 11 (and since he’s playing with heavy machinery here, making loud noises wasn’t hard). Since the movie is little more than one extended action scene, this all works fine; and while it makes for a somewhat hollow film, the lack of scenes that make emotional connections keep the pace moving along like the runaway locomotive itself.
“Unstoppable” quite simply is a crowd pleaser and gets a 3 out of 5. It doesn’t worry about character development or tackling much more than the multi-ton freight train that dominates almost every frame of the film but that’s okay in this case. If you want escapism and an easy display of heroics, look no further. But if you prefer your cinematic meal to be more than a pretty picture and simple thrills, you might want to look elsewhere.