Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Tony Scott
Stars: Denzel Washington, Chris Pine, Rosario Dawson, Kevin Dunn.
Speed on a train!
There have been many exciting action movies dealing with trains, including Buster Keaton’s The General, John Frankenheimer’s tense WWII thriller The Train, Robert Aldrich’s Emperor Of The North, the original Taking Of Pelham 1-2-3, etc. And now we can add Tony Scott’s exciting thriller Unstoppable to the list.
A driverless freight train carrying a load of hazardous chemicals is speeding through southern Pennsylvania at 70mph, headed for a heavily populated suburban area. The attempts by the railroad company to slow the train down have been unsuccessful as it ploughs through obstacles like a hot knife through butter. As one character puts it: “We’re not just talking about a train. We’re talking about a missile the size of the Chrysler Building!”
Meanwhile, heading along the same track on a collision course, is another freight train driven by veteran engineer Frank Barnes (Denzel Washington) and his rookie conductor Will Colson (Chris Pine). The two men instantly dislike each other, but they find they have to put their mutual animosity aside and work together in a desperate last-ditch attempt to stop the juggernaut. Thus begins a race against time to avert disaster.
Audiences who remember Andrei Konchalovsky’s exciting 1985 thriller Runaway Train, with Jon Voight and Eric Roberts, will know what to expect here. The pacy script from Mark Bomback (Die Hard 4, etc) contains plenty of suspense, thrills and cliffhanging moments to keep audiences on the edge of their seat for the duration.
Unstoppable is the second film involving trains from director Scott, following last year’s exciting and visually kinetic remake of The Taking Of Pelham 123. Scott brings his usual frenetic style of editing, close-ups, and hand held camera approach, but here it suits the material adding a sense of adrenaline pumping urgency. Scott also brings plenty of testosterone to the film and it slowly develops a pace almost as relentless as the speeding train itself. He also eschews CGI effects here, opting for real live trains where possible to add authenticity to the drama.
This is also the fifth collaboration between Scott and his star Washington, and the pair have established an easygoing relationship. Washington brings his usual sense of authority, confidence and noble morality to his role here. It’s somewhat comforting to have his solid presence in a disaster film, as we tend to trust that things will turn out all right. Pine (who recently breathed new life into Captain Kirk for the rebooted Star Trek franchise) has a cocky presence here that suits his character.
Rosario Dawson brings strength to her role as Connie Hooper, the train dispatcher, who communicates with our heroes. And Kevin Dunn makes for a nicely slimy villain, as the railroad company executive who is more concerned about the company’s image, the cost of losing the train and the potential hit to the share price than anything else.
Unstoppable is a superb piece of visceral cinema from Scott, who is clearly in his element here, and milks the rather simple premise for maximum excitement. The film is supposedly based on “true events” concerning a runaway train in Ohio in 2001, but as usual Hollywood has embellished the facts to provide audiences with an unbeatable thrill ride.
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