Unstoppable is a film that I think flew under most people’s radar. I mean, it got fairly decent reviews and pulled in $170 million worldwide, but most people I spoke to haven’t seen this one. And that’s a shame because Unstoppable was one of the stronger action-thrillers that came out in 2010. There’s just something about Denzel Washington and trains that works so well (see The Taking Of Pelham 123). With Tony Scott behind the camera, Unstoppable has a frenetic and high tensioned feel to it that will keep you undoubtedly pinned to your seat, the whole way through. Strap in and hold on for your dear life because Unstoppable is one hell of a ride.
Starring Denzel Washington and Chris Pine, the film tells the true story of a runaway freight train and the two men who try to stop it. Denzel plays Frank Barnes, a veteran railroad engineer and Chris Pine plays Will Colson, a rookie train conductor. When a runaway train carrying toxic cargo starts to head towards a small town, the city goes into panic mode. If the train makes it to the town, a sharp curve will derail it, causing a toxic spill, destroying the area and taking thousands of lives. Will and Frank are on a separate locomotive when they hear about the runaway train. One thing leads to another and under the guidance of yardmaster Connie Hooper (Rosario Dawson), they are tasked with the job of trying to bring the train back under control. Now they’re in a race against time as they rush to stop the train before it destroys an entire town.
The film is half Speed, half Mission Impossible, with the usual flair and edge that a Denzel Washington/Tony Scott picture has. It’s a film that rarely slows down, if ever. Kinetic, tense and thrilling throughout, Unstoppable works on just about every level. Breathtaking stunts and stunning cinematography combine for a visceral thrill ride for the full 99 minute runtime. Scott uses all his tricks, from the stylized images to the frenetic camerawork. It’s a Tony Scott film, through and through, and it’s one of his best yet.
The film also has an astonishing sense of realism as pretty much all the effects and stunts were done practically. There was really no CGI or fancy effects work. Scott plays it old school and it works out for the best. The tension is sustained throughout the film as it plays out like one long Murphy’s Law sequence. Things just keep going wrong, racking up the intensity and keeping our eyes glued to the screen, the whole way through.
Washington and Pine provide for a likeable pair. They’re mismatched and aren’t too happy when they end up together. As you can guess though, when the situation turns dire, they go buddy buddy and start to earn a new found respect for each other. The interplay and vocal sparring between Pine and Washington is great and their chemistry feels authentic. Washington playing a role he’s very comfortable with and Pine showing us he’s a bonafide action star.
A telegraphed ending and some action film cliches keep things from being perfect. Also, as expected, a bit of the dialogue is a kind of drab and the overstylized nature of the film may be a turn off for some. Other than the aforementioned facts, I don’t think people should find any problems with the movie.
It’s wildly entertaining, pure thrills backed by some signature Tony Scott direction and a pair of great performances by Denzel Washington and Chris Pine. Sure, there may not be a whole lot of substance in terms of plot and character development but the film knows what it is and Tony Scott knows what audiences want, and in that respect, it delivers.
It’s hard not to be entertained by Unstoppable, even if you’re not down with Tony Scott’s directing style. It’s a pure thrill ride all the way through and it never lets up
Unstoppable is a pure thrill ride from beginning to end. Well-staged action, strong performances and great direction make it one of the most exciting films of the year.