When I first saw the trailer for “Unstoppable,” I wasn’t expecting much. My intuition was right.
Starring Denzel Washington, Chris Pine and Rosario Dawson, “Unstoppable” is about a runaway train that is closing in fast on the town of Stanton, Pa. and needs to be stopped before it derails and spills its hazardous cargo.
The reason the train becomes a runaway is actually quite comical. The conductor feels it is a good idea to hop out of the train to change the track direction, but then fails to catch back up with it. Other employees watching this unfold just laugh, not thinking that the train is now unmanned with tons of toxic materials and heading towards a heavily populated area.
From this point, the film itself becomes a runaway that needs to be stopped.
One minute the train is just a “coaster”—the term used by the railroad company for the slow-moving runaway, but then the situation turns into one where the train is moving at 70 mph, with no real explanation for how it reached that speed.
The story then shifts to the new guy, Will (Pine), who is beginning his conductor training with veteran engineer Frank (Washington).
These two characters at first seem to be polar opposites, but as the film moves forward their similarities are revealed.
Will is in the middle of a divorce and Frank has trouble connecting with his two teenage daughters. These two relationships seem very important to the story but the development was severely lacking in both. I felt no emotional connection to these characters and their troubles, even as the action intensified.
They continue to bond in a weird way by arguing with each other and having general disagreements with their boss.
When Will and Frank encounter the runaway train for the first time, it almost takes their lives.
As the runaway barrels down the tracks, Frank and Will’s train just barely makes it off the main track before the two collide. The runaway takes out the back few cars of the train, creating one of many huge explosions in the film.
The decision to go after the runaway is made by Frank and Will, despite the corporate bosses telling them not to. Connie (Dawson), the boss in charge of the rail yard where the runaway comes from, agrees with Frank and Will and lets them go after it.
The majority of the action takes place towards the end of the film, with daring jumps from train car to train car, huge explosions and tense moments.
A nice touch from the director Tony Scott was to mix in local news coverage as the event was happening to give the film a sense of reality that other action films tend to lack.
However, the use of quick moving shots and the choppy, one-line dialogue throughout the film was straight from the proverbial “action movie book.” The shots of the speeding train were even a bit nauseating at times.
If you plan on seeing this film, be prepared for cheesy dialogue, outrageous stunts and underdeveloped characters and plot points.
Another 15 minutes or so of character development would have been nice, but with a running time of more than an hour and a half, you’ll be ready for the credits to role.