November 28, 2010

Movie Review: Unstoppable (2010)

unstoppable3_largeTony Scott and Denzel Washington have now collaborated on five films dating back to 1995's Crimson Tide. If they keep this up they may catch up to Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, although I suspect that I will still prefer the output of the latter. Whatever, that isn't why we are are here now is it? We are here for Tony Scott's second train movie, second in a row as a matter of fact. It is a movie that I initially had no interest in seeing at all. Still, through a few twists of fate I still found myself sitting in the theater taking it in.

Why did I see it? Well, that comes down to two names: Roger Ebert and Jeff Campbell. The former is someone you likely know, while the latter will be unknown to all but a handful. Why these two? I saw Ebert's review where he gave it 3.5 stars. Now, I did not read the review, but I did skim for an impression and he seemed to really like it. I do not always agree with him, but I do respect his opinion. As for Campbell, well he is someone I know in my off-line life and he quite enjoyed it, or so he said. He has an eclectic taste in film. Take these two together and I figured it was with a shot.

After seeing the runaway train I have to say that I do not like it nearly as much as those two trusted (somewhat trusted?) names. With that said, I did enjoy it more than I was expecting and it blows the doors off Scott's last train flick, the remake of The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3. Yes, I found myself invested in the story as it went along, and that is definitely to the credit of the movie.


Yes, I did enjoy it. Yes, I got involved with the story. Yes, it is well made. Still, it is not a movie I will find myself revisiting it all that often if ever. It is not a movie that is going to stick in my mind for very long. It has been a week since I have seen it and it is already beginning to slip away. It is very much a movie that is about being in the moment, it is not concerned with any preconceptions, nor does it care about what you think once you leave the theater. I am convinced that all the the filmmakers care about is holding the audiences attention from the first credit to the last. Everyone else be damned.

The story is based on real events, events that I was unfamiliar with but had to believe the outcome would be positive. I mean no one wants to go in knowing it is going to end in disaster. Well, maybe no one. Anyway, the story centers on a train that gets away while being moved (sounds silly, but is believable in execution). It gains speed and is headed towards a highly populated area with a very explosive payload in tow. It is up to a couple an experienced driver and rookie conductor to figure out how to stop it. That's it. Sounds simple enough, right?

That really is all there is to the plot. It is pushed along by those in charge trying to come up with ways of stopping the train. Theses are led by Connie (Rosario Dawson), the woman in charge of the station (I do not recall her exact title). Unfortunately all of their efforts are for naught. Fortunately Frank (Denzel Washington) and Will (Chris Pine) are on the track.


The screenplay by Mark Bomback (Deception, Race to Witch Mountain) does a good job keeping the characters focused and giving us some character moments throughout to help flesh them out and keep us interested. This is helped by Tony Scott's direction. Scott always has a very kinetic look to his movies, of late he has used that along with a penchant for varying film stocks, speeds, and jump cut edits and reigned them in for an end result that works a lot better than it did in Pelham, although we do still get a randomly flipping cop car.

For as effective as the direction and writing is, it is the two main leads that make this movie watchable. Without Washington an Pine giving the proceedings some credibility I suspect that this would not be nearly as compelling as it is. The two actors do a fine job f making their characters relatable and charismatic.

Still, what it comes down to is this is simply a runaway train movie injected with A-list energy to make it worthy of a big screen release. It is fun while it lasts but ultimately lacks little substance.

Mildly Recommended.

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