Review: Unstoppable

Unstoppable Movie Poster

Director: Tony Scott (Domino, Man on Fire, True Romance, The Fan, Top Gun)
Screenplay: Mark Bomback
Producers: Eric McLeod, Mimi Rogers, Tony Scott, Julie Yorn, Alex Young
Starring: Denzel Washington, Chris Pine, Rosario Dawson, Ethan Suplee, Kevin Dunn, Kevin Corrigan
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 98 min.

It doesn’t happen nearly as much as I’d like but every once in a while, we get a movie that isn’t exactly brilliant but still manages to make your movie ticket worthwhile. This past weekend, we were lucky enough to get not one but two of these movies. The first is Skyline (review) which, despite its flaws, was a whole lot of fun to watch. The second, and slightly better of the two, is Tony Scott’s re-team with Denzel Washington and new hottie up-and-comer Chris Pine, a runaway train story simply titled Unstoppable which, by the way, is a totally misleading title because they soooooooo stop the train. This is Hollywood we’re talking about here.

Unstoppable Movie StillThe story’s pretty simple. Dewey (no comment), has to move a train off the track. As he’s moving it, he notices that the line has yet to be switched so he puts the engine in cruise and against his partner’s warning, jumps off to turn the switch. The controls dislodge and all of a sudden, the train is going 40 mph down the mainline with no conductor and picking up speed. Coming the other way, also on the mainline, are Frank (Washington), a veteran of the railway, and Will (Pine), a freshie four months out of training with a last name that raises eyebrows in the yard. They nearly miss a head-on collision with the out of control train when Frank decides that the company’s way of dealing with the problem isn’t going to work. They take chase. The plan: to hook onto the back of the runaway and basically slow it down enough so that someone can jump on and shut the thing off.

Those are the basics but Mark Bomback’s script includes a whole load of other mildly interesting tidbits which make for good entertainment. There’s Connie (Rosario Dawson), operations supervisor who is liaising between corporate and the yard with little success, Galvin (Kevin Dunn), the VP of Operations who is trying to avert a company disaster but is really just making things worse and then Inspector Werner (Kevin Corrigan) who just happens to be hanging out waiting for a group of kids who he’s going to talk to about train safety – instead he turns into the random dude with a wealth of information on trains and the chemicals the runaway is hauling.

Unstoppable Movie StillThere are more, a bunch of side stories and characters that are unnecessary but expected in a movie about two normal dudes who become heroes. We have to care for the characters so give them some back story. There’s also the crazy side characters (the lead welder is particularly entertaining) who add colour to Scott’s already overflowing canvass.

Unstoppable proves to be the perfect partner for Scott’s style of fast edits, crash zooms and mixing and matching of film stock. Editors Chris Lebezon (a Scott regular) and Robert Duffy cut this sucker into a lean and effective thriller that grabs hold and doesn’t let go. There’s nothing new or particularly innovative here but this story moves at breakneck speed and keeps the audience entertained through every predictable corner. Ok, except for the welder; I’d completely forgotten about him all together.

It starts off on the slow side of things but once it gets going, Unstoppable is a hell of a fun ride. Scott and Washington should really work together more often. The results always seem to be better than expected.

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