DVD Review: Crazy Runaway Train… er, Unstoppable has a simple premise: Two magnetic hero-stars (Denzel Washington and Chris Pine) on some trains going really fast. But by gum if the flick doesn’t ramrod home everything that straightforward formula promises.
The following is a reprint of the redblog review of Unstoppable on its theatrical release last fall. Unstoppable is now available from redbox.
If there’s a perfect soul mate out there for everyone, then maybe there’s a perfect subject for every movie director. If so, Tony Scott has found his. For the most part, the maker of such testosterone-y action bludgeons as Top Gun, Crimson Tide, and 2009’s The Taking of Pelham 123 remake knows one speed: loud, blunt, and fast. Luckily that’s just the sort of guy you want driving a popcorn-chomper about an out-of-control freight train.
Unstoppable is “inspired by a true story.” (As in, “there was once a train that accidentally ran loose without anyone on it” – in the same way Jaws is inspired by a Great White Shark that once ate a swimmer.) But all you need to know is that thanks to a chain of d’oh events there’s an unmanned train full of deadly chemicals running really fast toward Pennsylvania city where, wouldn’t you know it, the tight, doomed-to-derail turn is next to a fuel dump. And in hot pursuit there’s another train with our heroes Denzel Washington and Chris Pine on board.
Scott and screenwriter Mark Bomback (Live Free or Die Hard) aren’t here to mess around—we meet Washington and Pine’s rail-worker characters, give ‘em each as much backstory as fits on a wallet photo (one’s about to retire, the other’s a newbie), put ‘em on a train, and we’re off and running.
Along the way the script tosses all sorts of things in front of the hurtling juggernaut, which roars and menaces in true Villain Train fashion. (It’s a missile the size of the Chrysler Building, in case you haven’t heard.) There’s a train full of school children in harm’s way, and at one point a nice horsie is endangered. (The nuns, puppies, and kitties got the day off.)
The stars do exactly what’s needed of them–Denzel with his customary grin and seen-it-all gruffness, and Pine with the sort of aw-shucks swagger that made him a perfect new Captain Kirk. Unstoppable doesn’t ask either man do much heavy acting, but when it comes time to get heroic, the stars step up and let ‘er rip with Carhartt-collar bravado.
Tony Scott’s at his best when he trusts his face-punch instincts and gets out of the way of his stories and actors, and Denzel’s fifth ride with Scott gives Washington an easy, no-nonsense confidence. The leads are backed up by Rosario Dawson (thankfully as a railroad manager and not some swooning girlfriend back home) plus Scott’s usual who’s who of “That Guys,” including not one but three Kevins (Dunn, Corrigan, and Chapman) and the amusing numb-nuttery of Ethan Suplee and T.J. Miller.
Scott’s problems come when he fancies himself a cinematic stylist like his brother Ridley–Unstoppable is sometimes overloaded with flashy jitter-edits and slo-mo visuals. Still, you gotta give it up for an action slinger who manages to work helicopters, fireballs, car chases, blazing guns, and a Hooters scene into a tale of a train going fast.
No one’s going to mistake Tony Scott for a great filmmaker or Unstoppable for anything but a high-speed, bull-headed diversion. But thanks to the cast, that mean ol’ Demon Train, and Scott’s addiction to hammer-down entertainment, this diversion gives it all it’s got and delivers all you need.
More from thc cast of Unstoppable at redbox:
- Denzel Washington in The Book of Eli on DVD and Blu-ray
- Chris Pine in Star Trek
- Rosario Dawson in Percy Jackson and the Olympians on DVD and Blu-ray