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A runaway train carrying a cargo of toxic chemicals puts an engineer and his conductor in a race against time. They're chasing the runaway train in a separate locomotive and need to bring it under control before it derails on a curve and causes a toxic spill that will decimate a town. Written by
Real life train engineer Jess Knowlton served as a technical advisor to Denzel Washington. Knowlton's daughters actually work at Hooters, which is how Washington's Frank Barnes character's daughters wound up being similarly employed. See more »
A pickup truck was shown at the beginning of the movie with a Pennsylvania license plate on the front bumper. Pennsylvania does not issue front license plates. See more »
A simple, solid, and very intense thrill ride from start to finish.
It would not be much for me to say that above, having Denzel Washington
re- teaming up with his frequent collaborator, director Tony Scott, on
yet another movie involving a train very soon after last year's "Pelham
123". Comparisons, no matter how many people try to avoid it, is
futile. One is always going to end up better than the other.
Fortunately, "Unstoppable" is better than "Pelham 1 2 3". The main
reason is that while "Pelham" works as more of a crime thriller,
"Unstoppable" like the title suggests, is an action film. It has
exhilarating action sequences laced with heart-stopping suspense and
white-knuckle thrills the moment that train is let loose. It is cliché
to say it, but it's terrific edge-of-your-seat entertainment. For those
who are short on thrills after bland after-summer borefests (here's
looking at you, "Takers"), this movie is for you.
Is it going to win any Oscars? With a movie like this? No, of course
not. This isn't "There Will Be Blood". It's not exactly intelligent,
but it is mostly believable. Inspired by true story, writer Mark
Bomback's ("Live Free or Die Hard") script is fueled on one simple,
very basic premise - a runaway train of doom (complete with highly
toxic and explosive material packed in the last of its carriages).
There are no human villains, just human heroics, stupidity and
carelessness, plus a speeding and out of control giant bullet that can
cause certain doom for many people. Those human qualities are what
gives this film a realistic and believable edge.
The heroes are just everyday guys like you and me - Denzel Washington
especially proves himself adaptable to every role assigned to him; in
fact you can say that Washington plays himself in many his films, with
that friendly smile and gentleman-like charm. He is tense, and worried
when the role requires him to, and you feel for him and root for his
character all the way.
But Washington is not alone in trying to stop this missile-on-wheels.
Chris Pine here shows star power, and he has many heroic moments. I'm
not saying that all looks, no substance. The guy shows, like Denzel,
emotions when he needs to. The chemistry between him and Denzel is
great, the buddy moments were there as well.
Both of them are the two main characters, but others are busy trying to
stop this giant behemoth (most to useless effects). Rosario Dawson,
Kevin Dunn and Lew Temple all give solid supporting performances as
they try to stop the train at all costs.
Yes, the script could use some reworking, especially in the cliché-
filled dramatic parts, but Mark Bomback's script is ultimately an
extended chase sequence that doesn't relent the moment it starts. The
aforementioned dramatic moments take place during the action, so the
film's pace is about as tight as a bullet. It's short, simple (we're
talking bare-bones simple here, don't expect any hidden meanings to be
unfurled like the vastly superior "Runaway Train" by Andrei
Konchalovsky), and straight to the point. And perhaps that is why
"Unstoppable" works - it has a very nice touch of simplicity, with an
easy to understand plot and like-able, everyday guys who have no choice
but to save the day before pandemonium breaks out.
Technical wise, it is outstanding. All of the films action sequences
are filmed with REAL trains and REAL destruction and mayhem, making it
perfect eye candy for action junkies drained of an adrenaline rush.
Twisted metal and explosions are (almost) always a joy to watch,
ESPECIALLY if they are real - but in this film some may cringe with the
action sequences, knowing that it may destroy a town - the danger is
there. Not a tinge of CGI (perhaps only the sparks?) is seen throughout
the film. The production design - the setting of the film which takes
place in rural Pennsylvania, is calm, serene and kind of homely (most
of the film is set outdoors, for obvious reasons). The cinematography,
thankfully, is bright, lively, and crisp - thus allowing the audience
to see the scenery as well as the action sequences in all their glory -
the shaky-cam is sparingly used, and even so, you can still see what's
going on as the shaky-cam is used from a distance. The editing is also
very fluid, Chris Lebenzon has definitely learned and improved from his
dizzying and messy hatchet job on "Pelham", but this is also due to the
intervening of other editor Robert Duffy, a frequent collaborator of
avant-garde filmmaker Tarsem Singh. Frequent Scott collaborator Harry
Gregson-Williams also composes a tense, if not unoriginal, orchestral
score that gives tension to scenes when it needs it.
Last but not least, director Tony Scott himself. Here is a man who
knows how to make an action film. Having made many action films for
nearly three decades, age has certainly done nothing to slow his
signature style down. The direction is kinetic and focused, and Scott
delivers the action goods in spades. I think, due to the friendship and
frequent collaboration with Denzel Washington (this film marks their
fifth collaboration overall) that Scott continues to be an in-demand
action film director, and this film contributes to that winning streak.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Take this - anybody can describe the film's plot in just two words:
runaway train. If people want to see a movie about a runaway train,
they certainly got it in the form of this film. It's what they pay for.
See it with friends, especially in a big theater hall with a nice sound
system. Glad to see a movie that works entirely without flashy CGI and
3D visuals, and still manages to be a terrificly entertaining crowd-
Overall rating: 70/100 (Good)
Edit: R.I.P. Tony. Such a shocking end to a marvelously kinetic career.
You and your films will be missed. Condolences to Ridley and the Scott
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