Unstoppable: Once It Takes Off, It Doesn’t Slow Down

12 11 2010

Based on the true story of the “Crazy Eights” runaway train incident that took place in 2001, Tony Scott’s Unstoppable (starring Denzel Washington and Chris Pine) is an adrenaline infused thrill ride. Here’s the breakdown:

When train #777 starts barreling down a Pennsylvania mainline with no one at the controls, railway employees scramble to stop it. With no airbrakes and a half-mile worth of train pushing it along at over 70 miles an hour, the situation looks grim; making matters worse, Triple 7 carries tons of combustible, toxic liquid, endangering the highly populated city of Stanton, Pennsylvania. It’s up to two unlikely railmen, Frank (Washington) and Will (Pine), to stop it.

The Monkey: Tony Scott’s directing style is unmistakable: jerky camera shots, acid lighting, blurry slow motion and quick zooms. Unstoppable is no different, and Scott’s trademark style does wonders for this action-packed film. From the start, Scott is able to give trains and the railway industry a sense of danger and uncontrollable tension. The way Scott characterizes the thundering runaway train (dubbed Triple 7 in the film) draws comparisons to Steven Spielberg’s innovative work on Duel. Just as Spielberg did with a monstrous semi-truck, Scott makes Triple 7 a truly frightening film villain. The fact that Triple 7 is inanimate makes it all the more menacing and cold.

Pine and Washington are the perfect capacitors for the film’s dramatic core. They are likeable and relatable, and the audience truly cares if they make it out okay. Rosario Dawson really impressed as a railway controller, delivering an incredibly believable performance.

But the true stars of the movie are the trains. Scott shoots the lumbering locomotives perfectly, using sweeping fly-overs just as effectively as ground cams, amping up the thrills and the tension to almost unbearable levels. As Triple 7 increases speed, so does the pace, never giving the audience a change to breathe.

The Weasel: Scott’s over-use of “news footage” was grating, so grating, in fact, that at one point it felt like the film was being commentated like a sporting event. A few clips and “news stories” would have sufficed, but its gratuitous use was baffling and annoying.

While I enjoyed Scott’s direction, at times, it was a bit heavy-handed, especially at the beginning of the film, before the action starts. Character introductions and plot explanations don’t require ominous, pounding music and intense camera shots.

Unstoppable delivers exactly what it promises and then some. If you’re looking for an adrenaline rush, this is your movie…think Speed on crack.

4 Death Stars out of 5

What do you think? Do you typically enjoy Tony Scott films? Did Denzel Washington and Chris Pine work well together? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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3 responses

12 11 2010
Cassandra Okamoto

I am going to see it just for an hour and a half of Chris Pine 🙂 ha ha but I will let you know what I thought of the movie as well

13 11 2010

“Speed on crack” hahaha. nice! I felt the movie was good, but lacked better story-telling/character-development. I still enjoyed it and am glad you did too. btw, I think it was Penn instead of Ohio.

Pine did a decent job. are you excited for Star Trek 2?

15 11 2010

I am excited for ‘Star Trek 2’! And you’re right, the film took place in Pennsylvania; it was the true story that took place in Ohio – thanks for the catch!

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