Unstoppable

20 Nov

Title: Unstoppable
Year:
2010
Director:
Tony Scott
Writer:
Mark Bomback
Starring:
Denzel Washington, Chris Pine, Rosario Dawson, Ethan Suplee, Jessy Schram, Kevin Corrigan
MPAA Rating:
PG-13, sequences of action and peril, and some language
Runtime:
98 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating:
7.3
Rotten Tomatoes:
85%

 

I really like what comes out of every Denzel Washington-Tony Scott collaboration, the duo had already worked together four times before Unstoppable. The first one was in 1995’s Crimson Tide, they reunited nine years later for Man on Fire, then again in 2006 for Déjà Vu, and finally last year in The Taking of Pelham 123. Those have all been seriously solid films, Man on Fire I thought was particularly good, and shows that the partnership between these two is really consistent, and in my opinion Unstoppable is the best film they’ve made together thus far.

Simply put, this is sheer entertainment, a seriously nicely paced film. It’s fast, it’s thrilling and it’s loud, and if you need a film with those three qualities then Mr. Scott is definitely the man for the job. Reportedly Mr. Washington himself suggested Chris Pine for the other lead role to Mr. Scott, and that was one seriously spot-on recommendation. Mr. Pine came to my attention for all the wrong reasons in 2006, when he starred in that horrible Lindsay Lohan film Just My Luck and had a supporting role in Joe Carnahan’s underwhelming Smokin’ Aces. But then, as we all know, last year he turned it all around when he played Captain Kirk in J.J. Abrams’ spectacular Star Trek reboot which I went gaga for. So yeah, I love Chris Pine now, and considering that the next projects he has lined up are This Means War, alongside Reese Witherspoon and Tom Hardy, and Welcome to People, a potentially awesome film by the writers of Star Trek in which he’ll co-star with Elizabeth Banks, not to mention the eventual Star Trek sequel, I doubt I’ll stop liking the guy any time soon.

But, anyways, back to the film. If you’ve seen the trailers then you’ll know pretty much what it’s all about, which is, basically, an unstoppable train, not in the sense of The Taking of Pelham 123 because the train here is unmanned and there’s no John Travolta, but Mr. Washington is still the one poised to stop it here as he and Mr. Pine race against time to stop the huge freight train from crashing at full speed.

The similarities to that previous film go to state that Mr. Scott knows how to handle speeding trains all too well, and Mr. Washington knows how to deal with this amazing amount of energy and create some seriously believable tension for us sitting in the audience. We have a director who likes to shake things up a bit, literally, and throw as many loud trains or police sirens our way, and the effect it has when done so well like it is in Unstoppable is tremendous.

The stunts here are all pretty cool, and they’re not CGI, which is something that is far too underrated in our digitalized world, and Mr. Scott actually had Mr. Washington and Mr. Pine spend a lot of time atop the moving train. Apparently Mr. Pine did a lot of his own stunts while Mr. Washington only some, as he has a fear of heights, and left the others to very capable stuntmen. Whoever did whatever, the stunts all look seriously wicked on top of that huge train that sounds like a ferocious beast that can’t be controlled.

Mr. Pine’s character, Will, is a new young conductor that hasn’t spent much time assigned to railway, and has been partnered for the day with Mr. Washington’s character, Frank, who’s a veteran engineer. We learn a bit of their personal lives along the way, Will is having some bad marital problems and Frank is learning how to cope with his daughters. And then disaster strikes as the character played by Ethan Suplee, who has become an expert at playing dumb slackers since his days in My Name is Earl, makes a mistake as he thinks he has managed to bring the train to a complete stop, but no one with Mr. Suplee’s slacker demeanor is brought to a film like this to that. And sure enough, the train hasn’t stopped, instead it’s picked up speed and is full of dangerous chemicals and headed straight for a highly populated area.

You’ll obviously think that this happening would be impossible, however the movie sets some guidelines that make this seem plausible, not to mention that the film was inspired by a real-life event that was quite similar, so the groundwork was there and this could actually happen. Obviously this is the exaggerated and primped up version of things to make it all very entertaining, but it’s plausible and that’s all I care for, because the rest is handled remarkably well by the director and his stars.

Mr. Scott makes of his film something very much like the train it focusses on, the first half hour or so it’s on track, setting things up, but the last hour or so is unstoppable, a very thrilling ride with many suspenseful moments. We get to see this from the point of view of Will and Frank, from the point of view of Connie, the Rosario Dawson character, who’s in charge of dispatch and operations, and from the many news choppers Mr. Scott likes so much to have flying around creating cool shots of the action to intercut with the ones in which we’re right there.

I won’t go ahead and tell you guys how the problem is resolved, how Frank and Will, who started out a regular day aboard their train, will end up saving the day. But I will say this, Unstoppable is the best Scott-Washington collaboration to date, and it’s the movie in which Mr. Scott’s set of strengths have been on display the most awesomely, his frantic style of direction, his love of very tense moments in which split-second decisions are made by the dozens. This feels like a huge old-school action movie. And in these final months of the year, in which the majority of the films released are Oscar bait and more a bit more heavy, it feels good to have a plain out entertaining flick, especially one that’s so good.

Grade: A-

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