Nov 2010 12

Tony Scott’s latest, Unstoppable, is a straight forward suspense action thriller that fails to ever live up to the intensity it hopes to create.

The plot is simple; a runaway, unmanned, train is barreling through Pennsylvania carrying explosive materials.  It must be stopped before it hits an elevated turn in the middle of a highly populated town and two rail employees, one at the edge of the retirement the other just starting his career, decide to go after it and attempt to bring it too a stop.  What follows is a series of events meant to build suspense and danger but the results fall flat.

The film’s pace is relentless and the film takes place more or less in real time.  The movie starts and doesn’t waste a moment getting the train on the run but for all the supposed high suspense this film is supposed to have there are literally only three quick instances of suspense to be had in the picture.  Three, that’s it, and obviously you know how every one of these is going to end before they even happen as well.  Outside of these brief moments as we lead up the finale we are left to endure endless rotating shots of Denzel Washington and Chris Pine in their train cab.  Oh, and if we aren’t whipping around their cab we are whipping around Rosario Dawson and the rail control station. And if we aren’t watching those two in whipping camera moves we are subjected to five million shots of the triple 7’s train barreling down the tracks.  To say it gets a bit repetitive is an understatement.

This repetitiveness isn’t the failure of anyone in particular really but what did you expect from a movie about two trains chasing each other down on the railroad tracks.  The film is a bit limited as well in the fact it is based off real events and the filmmakers were probably hesitant to over sensationalize things.  Luckily, whether sensationalized or not, the film’s third act is entertaining and a bit thrilling.  We also finally get some characterization for our two heroes in the film’s final moments and we are left wondering why it took so long for the filmmakers to try and let us get to know these characters.  The character beats really work too; the quick back and forth of these guy’s histories is even probably my favorite part of the film; too bad we didn’t get more of it.  Too bad we didn’t get more of it.

The two leads, Pine and Washington, both do an admiral enough jobs with what they are given and their banter on the tracks works well enough to provide some laughs at least.  But other then the laughs and the fore mentioned characterization bits they have nothing to work with.  The rest of the cast fairs even worse and can’t really do anything with the nothing they are given.  Rosario Dawson is left to spout off stupid one liner’s, Kevin Dunn is a one note villain, and Kevin Corrigan’s character is so awfully contrived and created for convenience that I don’t think any actor could have overcame the character’s limiting shortfalls.  Don’t come looking for a great character study here, sadly the action beats can’t make up for these shortcomings.

In the end, Unstoppable is a fast paced but underwhelming effort that can’t make the most out of an already limiting premise.  Pine and Washington are fun to watch but would be far more enjoyable in something that gave them much more to do.  If you think watching a couple guys ride hundreds of miles in a train with a couple of “thrilling” moments thrown in is your cup of tea then don’t let this lackluster review stop you.  The film does what aims to fine enough, it just never comes close to becoming anything more than what it is; a bland and stereotypical action thriller.

Unstoppable is a C-


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