Film Review with Robert Mann – Unstoppable

Unstoppable ****

An action thriller set aboard a train that stars Denzel Washington and is directed by Tony Scott – where have I seen that before? Oh, that’s right, it was last year’s The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3. Apparently, Tony Scott and Denzel Washington are really into trains right now as their latest film (their fifth collaboration)

, Unstoppable’ (not to be confused with the straight to DVD film of the same name starring Wesley Snipes, which even boasted surprisingly similar poster art), is their second consecutive film together to be based around happenings aboard a train, even though the situation in this film is rather different to their last collaboration. Unlike Pelham 1 2 3, their new film finds its inspiration in real life events (although many details have been changed) and also unlike that film it is not a hostage movie. Instead, Unstoppable is based on the CSX 8888 Incident (also known as the “Crazy Eights” Incident) which took place in 2001 and involved an unmanned runaway train with hazardous cargo that ran for two hours at speeds up to 47 miles per hour through the US state of Ohio before it was brought to a stop with the help of a second locomotive that caught up with it and coupled to the rear of the runaway. The inspiration for this film is certainly quite inspirational, the true story of normal people whose bravery transforms them into true heroes being exactly the kind of thing that you would expect to attract moviegoers and make a lasting impression after leaving the cinema. But, as this film is very much in the style of the kind of blockbuster movie that would have been big during the 90s and not so much now (as was also the case with The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3), will Unstoppable actually find a particularly appreciative audience and, more importantly, does it deserve to?

Starting his new railway job, fresh-faced Will (Chris Pine) doesn’t get a warm welcome from the old-timers. But he’s forced to work with veteran Frank (Denzel Washington) when disaster strikes in the form of a runaway train. Let loose on the railway lines as the result of a mishap by rail worker Dewey (Ethan Suplee), the train is unmanned, carrying hazardous chemicals and gathering speed, a metal leviathan destroying everything in its path. “We’re not just talking about a train,” warns dispatcher Connie (Rosario Dawson), “we’re talking about a missile – the size of the Chrysler building”. As the train races towards a heavily populated area, Frank has a solution: “The only way to stop that kind of power is to grab it by the tail and pull it in the opposite direction…” Ignoring the orders of corporate boss Galvin (Kevin Dunn), Will and Frank risk both their jobs and their lives as they race to stop the train before its lethal cargo causes one of the biggest disasters the state of Pennsylvania has ever seen.

Unstoppable is not a film that comes with much depth. It doesn’t need to, though, its slight storyline being plenty sufficient for the film’s simple needs, the characters engaging and convincing enough and the banter between the two leads sounding authentic and occasionally amusing. This is an action thriller first and foremost and in this regard it is easily one of the most intense movies you will see this year. Tony Scott’s trademark instantly recognisable fact moving camerawork and fast cut editing style lends itself perfectly to the kinetic action that is on display here. You might think that the premise of this film wouldn’t allow for many particularly exciting action sequences but you would be wrong as this film proves to be an unstoppable (sorry, I had to say it) adrenaline rush from start to finish, the tension never letting up and a real sense of urgency being present constantly. Sound is an effective tool in crafting the tension here, this being a very loud movie and the sound of the speeding train being very foreboding, creating a real impression of the threat it poses. The acting here is nothing especially memorable but as the characters are everyday rail workers this much is to be expected. Nonetheless, both Denzel Washington and Chris Pine prove charismatic and believable in their roles, making us truly care for their characters as their very lives are threatened. The fact that the heroes of the piece are, for once, not spies or superheroes but just normal everyday people only serves to make the whole thing all the more inspiring. So, packing a lot more kick than their last train movie together, Denzel Washington and Tony Scott have scored a real winner with Unstoppable, a film that certainly won’t change your life but, if you’re just looking for an action movie that really delivers the good, will keep you very entertained for 100 minutes.

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Review by Robert Mann BA (Hons)



© BRWC 2010.


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Alton loves film. He is founder and Editor In Chief of BRWC.  Some of the films he loves are Rear Window, Superman 2, The Man With The Two Brains, Clockwise, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Trading Places, Stir Crazy and Punch-Drunk Love.

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