UNSTOPPABLE (Tony Scott, 2010)
An unmanned runaway train carrying toxic materials speeds across Pennsylvania, and it’s up to Denzel Washington and Chris Pine to stop it in UNSTOPPABLE. Washington is Frank, a longtime engineer, and Pine plays Will, a relatively new conductor with family matters on his mind more than the job at hand. Once they discover that there’s a virtual missile on the tracks heading south toward their hometown, they commit to a risky plan to stop the train.
UNSTOPPABLE takes a simple premise and spins it into an entertaining film surging with pure energy. Director Tony Scott’s manic style is perfectly suited for this propulsive piece of action filmmaking. In addition to its exhilarating speed, UNSTOPPABLE’S efficiency is also an asset. The characters are introduced quickly and provided with a few key details to flesh them out. Washington and Pine are engaged in action hero work, not character studies, so getting the brushstrokes of their backstories is perfectly acceptable. Frank’s near the end of his career, Will’s near the end of his rope. That’s enough. And oh, by the way, they’re trying to stop a speeding train.
The performances hinge on the personalities of the actors, not their character’s origins, and the two leads work well together. Washington’s unflappable nature and Pine’s solemn determination complement each other when things get down to the nitty gritty.
Likewise, UNSTOPPABLE appreciates the spectacle of this tale, but it keeps the stakes high and takes them seriously, perhaps in a tip to its roots as a true story. The film climaxes with an audacious, last ditch attempt to bring the train to a stop that seems all the more exciting because there’s a real engine hurtling down the line.