a critiQal film review Unstoppable (2010)

  • DVD
  • Blu-Ray

Plot: Chasing a runaway train carrying a cargo of toxic chemicals in a separate locomotive, an engineer (Washington) and a conductor (Pine) are in a desperate race to bring the runaway train under control before it derails on a curve and causes a toxic spill that will decimate a town.

503 words (Est. Reading Time 2m 30s)

Ah, the weekends are so fun, aren’t they? No work, free time…and new movies arriving at our doorstep via NetFlix®. This week we had the opportunity to check out the Denzel Washington/Chris Pine actioneer Unstoppable – and found this was one runaway train we couldn’t stop watching.

Okay, so it’s not really the characters that tie the viewer into the film, but that’s not to say they aren’t entertaining. Denzel, who has been better before (Deja Vu (2006)) is rather forgettable as the old salt of an engineer, but still manages to form a decent camaraderie with Chris Pine, who shows he can do a halfway decent job even when he’s not aboard the Enterprise. Rosario Dawson, as usual, outperforms her co-workers – despite getting second billing. My Name Is Earl (TV) co-star Ethan Suplee, as usual, plays the bumbling fool easily.

Of course, the real star of Unstoppable is the runaway train itself, and manages to live up to the pressure easily, hooking viewers right from the start, and keeping them hanging on through the last tension-filled minute. But palpable tension and fast-paced, knock-your-socks-off action is par for the course for director Tony Scott (Deja Vu (2006), Enemy of the State (1998)) – maybe that’s why the uneven The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 (2009) was such a disappointment.

The action scenes were outstanding. Watching the train shrug off every attempt to slow it down – either by running into a horse trailer, shooting derailers out of it’s way like bullets or blowing by another train with only seconds to spare, the action will keep the viewer glued to their seat from start to finish.

Unfortunately, there is a bit of familiarity in the storyline. Unstoppable has that quality of a by-the-numbers action flick – a well done one to be sure, but nothing really refreshing. It’s easy to follow it through on it’s rather big leaps of faith near the beginning (the train could have easily been stopped when it first gets underway, but nobody does a thing, instead choosing to laugh at one bumbling incompetent) since the viewer realizes almost instantly that however ridiculously it gets started, it doesn’t matter once the train starts moving…thanks, in part at least, to the oddly familiar feeling about the whole film. Unfortunately, that one sequence gives the rest of the movie a oddly disappointing, knowing so many people basically had to go out of there way to sit by and watch instead of doing something, which in turn makes the action scenes that less exciting.

So, yes, Unstoppable is a solid, popcorn-chomping good time. But, with short shrift given to really fleshing out Washington’s and Pine’s characters – thrown in seemingly as an afterthought during a quick moment of relative downtime – and a paint-by-numbers feel to the script, this roller coaster ride is just that. Fun, but not just on a par with the more fully realized character-driven action pics like Enemy of the State (1998) or Enemy of the State (1998).

Despite that, most viewers should have a solidly good time watching Unstoppable…once.

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