Review: Unstoppable (2010)

Director: Tony Scott | 99 minutes | action, drama, thriller | Actors: Denzel Washington, Chris Pine, Rosario Dawson, Ethan Suplee, Jessy Schram, Kevin Dunn, Elizabeth Mathis, Kevin Chapman, David Warshofsky, Eric Unger, Jeff Wincott, Victor Gojcaj, Meagan Tandy, Lew Temple, Andy Umberger, Kevin McClatchy, Scott A. Martin, L. Derek Leonidoff, AJ Verel, Patrick McDade

Some partnerships are more fruitful than others. The one between director Ridley Scott and actor Russell Crowe, for example. Together they have already made five films and most of them are very successful. Ridley’s younger brother Tony Scott, also a film director by trade, prefers to work with Denzel Washington. They have also released five films together on the silver screen: ‘Crimson Tide’ (1995), ‘Man on Fire’ (2004), ‘Déjà Vu’ (2006), ‘The Taking of Pelham 123’ (2009) and ‘Unstoppable (2010). All action spectacles in which Washington shines in the role he so often plays: the good guy. In ‘Unstoppable’ he is veteran train driver Frank Barnes who, together with train driver Will Colson (played by Chris Pine), tries to stop a runaway train full of dangerous chemicals. All the clichés are pulled out of the closet and the film is quite predictable. Despite this, Scott and Washington deliver an entertaining spectacle that will keep you on the edge of your seat from the first to the last minute.

Due to human error – ‘of course’ a stupid and fat train driver (Ethan Suplee) is responsible – the heavy freight train 777 gets unmanned on the track. The monster full of explosive substances is heading faster and faster in the direction of a busy city in Northern Pennsylvania. A disaster seems unavoidable, especially in the knowledge that the track in that city makes a razor-sharp turn that the train can never keep at full speed. Railroad crossings are closed, while Coordinator Connie (Rosario Dawson) tries to save what can be saved from the nerve center of the railroad company. Of course, it is more important to her boss (Kevin Dunn) to save money than to save human lives. When several attempts to stop the train fail, our heroes Frank and Will arrive, who, with the greatest possible effort, try to get their freight train aside in time before the 777 arrives, in action. Will they manage to save Pennsylvania from history’s greatest disaster?

There is a lot wrong with ‘Unstoppable’. First, the concept is not very original. For example, we previously saw a derailed and runaway train in Andrey Konchalovskiy’s ‘Runaway Train’ (1985). The script also rattles all sides (especially the emotional backstory of both heroes is full of clichés, and a potential disaster with a train full of schoolchildren fizzles out) and the film loses credibility towards the end. It is of course also predictable. Nevertheless, Scott knows how to keep you fascinated from start to finish watching his disaster spectacle. He grabs you from minute one and only lets you go as soon as the end credits appear. His ultimate weapon is the perfectly tensioned tension arc. With that he manages to make even the most cynical viewer, he thought he could easily poke through all those clichés, get on the edge of his seat. Because even if you know how it ends, it is nerve-racking. The camera work and editing play an important role in this. Scott’s style is generally restless, dynamic and energetic (or loud, busy and nervous, that’s one way of interpreting it too) and again he successfully follows the tried and true recipe. Helped by a solid cast, he manages to turn it into an amusing whole. that’s also a way of interpreting it) and now he is successfully following the tried and true recipe. Helped by a solid cast, he manages to turn it into an amusing whole. that’s also a way of interpreting it) and now he is successfully following the tried and true recipe. Helped by a solid cast, he manages to turn it into an amusing whole.

‘Unstoppable’ is a typical film where you have to put your mind to now. Don’t think too long that the characters are pretty flat, the script consists of cheese with holes and you already know in advance how it will end. Don’t think too much, because you will ruin your evening for yourself and that is a shame. This standard story is surprisingly exciting, if you want to see it in it. Just flip that switch, because only then, if you want to go along with it, can you enjoy a dynamic action spectacle that is thrilling from start to finish. Popcorn entertainment pur sang! Isn’t it tasty sometimes?

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