It’s a bird, it’s a plane, no… it’s Denzel Washington and director Tony Scott working together on their fifth film! They need to be faster than a speeding locomotive to save the day this time. Actually, it’s a runaway speeding locomotive carrying a horrible toxic cargo that’s heading for highly populated disaster. Oh no!!! Worry not good citizens, a bland script with not even enough character development to fill a mini-sized thimble is no match for Scott’s visually highly-charged adrenaline train ride extravaganza that is “Unstoppable”. Tickets please.
Seriously folks, if Tony Scott was a horse at the tracks, I would not be betting on him. His track record hasn’t shown a decent film since maybe his first collaboration with Washington in “Crimson Tide”. And their team-up last year for the “so what” picture, “Taking of Pelham 1 2 3” didn’t amount to much so they decided to give the train film another go. Turns out they got this train movie right. With a minimalistic story, Scott stays focused on the escalating danger at hand, using all the tricks in his stylized quick-cutting, slow-to-focus bag. You can figure out the whole film in the first ten minutes but that doesn’t end up being a fault due to the so-called inspired by true events tale that Scott tells with action that’s big, brash, loud, and always showcasing the power of the runaway train.
You want story huh? Well… it’s a day like any other day until a railway employee doofus (Ethan Suplee) leaves his moving train to switch the tracks and is unable to get back on the train, leaving train “777” unmanned and increasing it’s speed up to 80mph. If you can make an effective heart racing action sequence with the portly typecast misfit Ethan Suplee, than you’ve really accomplished something. On the same track is the 28-year veteran Frank Barnes, played by Denzel Washington, who’s always lackadaisical in hazard’s way. Barnes is showing the ropes to Will Colson, played by the steely-eyed Chris Pine (better know as the new James T. Kirk). Mini sub-plots of the non-union Barnes losing jobs to the yellow-shirted union, as well as Colson and his spouse’s drama are gradually faded out in lieu of the MUST STOP TRAIN portion that overloads and rocks our cerebral cortex.
Yardmaster Connie Hooper (Rosario Dawson) gives us all the rest of any exposition needed with her extreme dramatization of this calculus problem. If a runaway train leaves from point A at the speed of death and a rescue train on the same track leaves from point B with a speed of Denzel, how long will it take for awesome to collide? Not long. Tony Scott shoots actions scenes first and sometimes asks questions later. Using close-up shots of the terrorizing train, Scott portrays it as a conscious being that knows the evil it’s about to perform, almost growling in the wind. The last hour of “Unstoppable” is truly that, unstoppable, making for a white-knuckled thrill ride that plays to our need for heroism and succeeds. By the end I was chanting U.S.A. under my breath.
By the end I was chanting “this” under my breath.
2 Samuel 23:8-39