"Unstoppable" - Short On Believability But High On Thrills
When it’s revealed at one point that not only could the train fly off the track and turn a city into Chernobyl but that in doing so it will also collide with massive fuel containers, the tragedy of the situation becomes almost laughable.
Yet "Unstoppable" is an action movie first and foremost. Such cinema is about entertainment, and however much one must suspend their disbelief, "Unstoppable" never fails to make the mayhem enjoyable.
Director Tony Scott’s success in this regard may be a result of rote learning, "Unstoppable" being his second locomotive action movie in as many years. His 2009 film "The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3" featured the hostage takeover of a New York subway train and starred Denzel Washington, who returns for this movie.
Mr. Washington, already an amazing talent, has the added benefit of a well-established comfort with Mr. Scott, whom he has made four films with in the last seven years.
His role here is nothing special yet he gives the movie a solid human core as not many but he can. Chris Pine (Star Trek) is new to the team but manages to ease into the picture and the same type of role as effortlessly as a grizzled vet.
The chemistry that blossoms between Mr. Washington and Mr. Pine benefits a movie where there is minimal time for character development.
Will (Mr. Pine) is working his first day as a train conductor under the tutelage of Frank (Mr. Washington), a veteran train engineer; their working relationship gives the film its initial tension until the locomotive runs amok.
When Will and Frank team up to stop it they quickly become friends and provide the movie its small doses of humor and back-story. Their respective family issues, though humanizing, are almost moot because the two leads are already extremely easy to root for.
The madness that ensues once the train begins to rampage also render the character developments inconsequential.
Fortunately Scott doesn’t linger on them or the ensuing morality play between a sympathetic train dispatcher (Rosario Dawson) and a heartless businessman (Kevin Dunn) intent on not destroying his prized investment.
These common stereotypes of disaster movies often intend to make a movie something greater than it is and usually fail.
Scott knows right where the viewer wants to be – in the thick of the action – and puts them there.
There are plenty of close shaves with death, most of which involve high-speed collisions and flying shards of metal, and they are all pulse pounding and captivating.
The film that "Unstoppable" will ultimately be most compared to is "Speed," which similarly featured a haywire vehicle and was equally unbelievable.
The concept of stopping a train, and the complications that that entails, is not nearly as exciting as having to keep a bus going faster than fifty miles per hour while trying to save everyone on it.
That "Speed" took place in Los Angeles added a madcap nature inherently missing from southern Pennsylvania.
Yet "Unstoppable" succeeds in making the most of its less frequent thrills and, though maybe better suited for July, is definitely worth checking out this November.