When compared to Tony Scott’s patented two men actioners, Unstoppable stands tall as a highlight in sound, fury, and token action movie silliness.
Considering that this is Scott’s consecutive film to be based on a train (The Taking of Pelham 123 proceeded it), you would think that Unstoppable would feature the prolific director with shaky track record, coasting along familiar terrain.
What a surprise to find that Unstoppable is the best film Scott has delivered in quite a long time, not to mention the most fun.
The film is loosely based on a true event known as the CSX 8888 incident, where a train ran uncontrolled for two hours through the state of Ohio before authorities brought it to a stop.
True to formula, Hollywood has heightened the drama to ludicrous results, as dumb-tastic thrills is coupled with genuine sincerity for its everyday protagonists. It will be damn hard not to yearn for the safety of these characters while also cheering on their heroic exploits. Yep, as fist pumping action cinema goes, it is that good.
The movie begins with a stupefying (not to mention true to fact) example of human error, which set in motion a 40-someting carriage train sans brakes, carrying toxic cargo and barrelling through blue collar Pennsylvania like Jaws slicing its way through chum.
To the rescue is veteran engineer Frank (frequent Scott collaborator Denzel Washington) and rookie conductor Will (emerging action star Chris Pine), who attempt to chase down the mechanical beast and bring it to a stop, before the train derails and takes out a whole town along with it.
Heightening the dramatic tension, both characters are given back stories (via Mark Bomback’s screenplay). Frank has just been given his walking papers to give way to younger recruits, and (hilariously) has two daughters working their way through college as Hooter’s waitresses. Will is estranged from his wife and child after a minor domestic incident.
Usually such extra detail would clutter slick action films of this sort, yet it is through Scott’s talented for pacing and the solid performances of its lead players that it works so well.
Supporting roles are also well played, with character actors such as Rosario Dawson, Kevin Corrigan, and a scene stealing Lew Temple as an ex-veteran action junkie giving the right boosts when needed.
Yet it is Scott who comes up aces here, providing a thrilling, nail biting watch, where a race against time is genuinely felt in every motion of his always moving (yet not shaking) camera, the work of his sound and visual effects technicians, and the performances of his actors.
Scott introduced us to the “need for speed” before, and what a rush it is to feel it again.