Theatrical Review: Unstoppable

Thanks to the carelessness of two slacker railroad employees, a half-mile long freight train, loaded with explosive chemicals is now careening at high-speed across the tracks of southern Pennsylvania. It’s now up to veteran engineer Frank Barnes and rookie conductor Will Colson to stop the train and avoid it’s explosive consequences.

Unstoppable has a pretty simple premise and makes for some fairly riveting entertainment in this fifth teaming of director Tony Scott and lead actor Denzel Washington. Prior to this, their other movies included last year’s remake of The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, Deja Vu, Man on Fire and this writer’s personal favorite of all of Scott’s movies, Crimson Tide. They’re a good team who works extremely well and I have no doubt that they’ll probably make more movies together.

Unstoppable has a nice pace with a leisurely start that quickly amps up thanks to it’s circumstances. Scott throws a lot of stuff on screen, but it’s all in service to the premise and it’s never intrusive and he’s got solid technical support and a very good cast.

The one thing that does get in the way (though I’ll grant you this isn’t really overwhelming) is the fact that this is promoted as being “inspired by true events.” Now a lot of movies do this with their promotion and I wonder just why this is such a big deal to use in their promotion. It’s now funny to me whenever I see those words in any promotional aspect of a movie, because it invites you to figure out what’s not inspired by the “true” events and what fits with Hollywood convention. As far as I know here, the only thing that’s inspired by something true is just the basic premise itself. I’m inclined to believe that because all of the character work and outside corporate influence smacks of pure Hollywood that’s designed to appeal to the gut and the heart.

Now really, there’s nothing wrong with this as long as your end product is good, and fortunately Unstoppable is a lot of fun. Tony Scott’s kinetic camera action is certainly evident, but not as manic as say in movies like Man On Fire or Domino. The train action sequences are extremely well done and when you have a movie with this basic premise, that’s what you want to see.

It helps that you have a solid cast in place and while no one’s going to win any awards for their work here, there’s nothing to be ashamed of either. I’ve said it before, I’m a huge Denzel Washington fan. Whenever he’s in anything he brings a great amount of gravitas to it, and this is no exception. Chris Pine plays Will Colson and he certainly impressed me with his rendition of Captain James T. Kirk in Star Trek. Colson’s sort of the same type of impulsive character and so this is well-suited to him. Rosario Dawson plays the rail commander Connie and like Washington, she’s become a real favorite for me over time. Her performances have gotten more and more driven over time and it certainly doesn’t hurt that she’s drop dead gorgeous as well.

In the end, Unstoppable is fun diversionary entertainment. You won’t see anything new here, and as long as you know that going in, you’ll probably be entertained for it’s running time. I certainly was and I very much look forward to the next time that Tony Scott and Denzel Washington team together.

About Darren Goodhart

Darren Goodhart is a 44-year old St. Louis-based Graphic Designer and Illustrator (and former comic book artist) who's been seeing movies all his life, but on an almost weekly basis in theatres for the last 20 years and owns nearly 1,000 DVDs for his home theatre. He's learned a lot about film over the 20 year period, and has taken his appreciation beyond the mainstream. His favorite types of film are mostly genre entertainment, but he also enjoys a wide range of drama, action and cult-y stuff from around the world, and is currently re-discovering a love affair with lower budget exploitation and genre films from the 70s and early 80s. He doesn't try to just dismiss any film, but if there's a bias against one, he'll certainly tell you that in the space of his reviews.

21. November 2010 by Darren Goodhart
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