Unstoppable (2010)

Content by Tony Macklin. Originally published on November 17, 2010 @ tonymacklin.net.

Two questions a critic asks himself are, "Does the movie deliver what it sets out to do?" And "Is it worth doing?"

Unstoppable provides positive answers to both these questions if you want an exciting movie about a runaway train.

Trains, collisions, and explosions should make a lot of action-struck movie fans' hearts throb. Unstoppable pulsates.

Usually, when they're making films together, action director Tony Scott limits actor Denzel Washington. But this time out in Unstoppable, Scott puts Denzel in a train, lets it go full throttle, and steps out of the way. He occupies himself with blowing things up while the train speeds merrily by.

In Unstoppable, Scott doesn't have muddled character as he did in Deja Vu (2006) and the remake of The Taking of Pelham of 1 2 3 (2009) or the mean-spirited violence of Man on Fire (2004).

He just lets the train go hell for broke. And it takes us on an exhilarating, satisfying ride. If we let it punch our ticket.

Unstoppable is the story of two men who use a train to try to chase down a runaway train with 39 cars, some carrying hazardous chemicals which threaten to destroy a city in rural Pennsylvania.

Veteran engineer Frank Barnes (Denzel) and trainee Will Colson (Chris Pine) meet one morning to go through their paces in a locomotive, but when another engineer's carelessness causes a train to go out of control, they decide to try to prevent disaster, and embark on a wild pursuit.

The plot is simply the basic rails; the characters and special effects create the special ride.

Scott has never been much for depth of character. The screenplays of his films are usually connect the dots. Even in a movie with a core of racism -- Crimson Tide (1995), Scott kept theme on the surface.

For Unstoppable, screenwriter Mark Bomback's streamlined screenplay rumbles along. Scott's regular editor Chris Lebenzon (with Robert Duffy) keeps the script back with the caboose. The locomotive is action.

The chemistry of the two leading actors -- Denzel and Pine -- is Scott's best since Denzel and Gene Hackman in Crimson Tide.

Denzel Washington is back being authentic and competent. Pine is natural as his youthful partner. Denzel and Chris Pine have two of the best smiles in movies today.

Rosario Dawson adds humanity as a competent manager, who supports the reckless duo on the train.

The "villain" of the film is the businessman who cares more about train property and the value of stocks than about people. But, since that seems a liberal strain, Fox News is featured for the conservative viewers.

Unstoppable has lots of action staples. Scott loves explosions. But can't cops in an action movie ever drive without smashing into each other?

Still, trains careening and hurtling by each other is hard to resist.

© 2000-2022 Tony Macklin