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Unstoppable: Thrilling train wreck

By Movie LoverMovies - 10 November 2010 2:17 PM | Updated 21 December 2010

Unstoppable: Thrilling train wreck

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2 stars out of 5

I saw this movie about a train that couldn’t be stopped, and since it was also carrying flammable and toxic materials, if the unstoppable train stopped, it would also explode!

I think it was called The Train That Couldn't Slow Down. Or maybe it was called Unstoppable. Either way it’s not something I would choo-choose to pay for (final Simpsons reference, I swear).

We’ve seen lots of movies set on trains before (1985’s Runaway Train comes to mind) and we’ve also seen lots of movies set on uncontrollable projectile vehicles before (1994’s Speed comes to mind) so what on earth made director Tony Scott think yet another variation of this would be a brilliant idea?

Okay so it may not be original but let’s throw Academy Award-winning actor Denzel Washington (last seen in The Book of Eli) in it – that’ll earn some credibility.

Oh wait, the same Denzel Washington whose last movie with Tony Scott (The Taking of Pelham 123) just last year was also set on a loco locomotive? Right, so even among these two, this wasn’t an original concept. The Washington-Scott partnership has been financially fruitful thus far though (Crimson Tide, Deja Vu, Man on Fire and the abovementioned train movie) even if their output hasn’t been universally stellar.

Denzel plays Frank Barnes, a 20-year-plus railroad veteran who has to team up with rookie conductor Will Colson (new-age Captain Kirk himself, Chris Pine) on the fateful day that an unattended freight train decides blow through town carrying multiple carriages of hazardous chemicals.

Amidst much banter between the experienced engineer and brash greenhorn, the traditional action-movie odd couple of course gain a grudging respect for each other and decide to save the day by stopping the unstoppable. It’s much like Training Day, except with more tracks than crack.

The dynamic duo are also guided by the calm and capable Connie Hooper (Rosario Dawson) who is the head of what  I like to call, the mission control of the state’s railway system. She essentially plays the same exact character that Denzel played in The Taking of Pelham 123, coordinating the rescue effort and offering advice from behind her desk.

Scott is a proficient director and he knows how and when to hit the necessary narrative beats for a conventional actioner such as this. Make no mistake; he milks the suspenseful moments, as clichéd as they are, for all they’re worth. Ridley’s younger brother even seems to have dosed up on his Ritalin because while Unstoppable is still frenetic, its editing isn’t epileptic.

It is also a wise move to limit saddling our heroes with trite emotional back stories and perfunctory love interests. It’s just two guys, with decent chemistry and good acting chops, getting their buddy heroics on and that’s enough for the story to stay on track. Denzel always delivers regardless of the material but Pine is slowly becoming a marketable action star in his own right, with or without spaceships.

Despite the decent performances and Tony Scott’s slightly more reserved hand on the decks this time, it is still difficult to call this a good movie by any means. Everything about Unstoppable screams derivative banality and it’s simply difficult to care about anything that happens in this film.

This movie is just like Speed, but on a train, and with less brains.


About Hidzir Junaini

Hidzir Junaini is 24-years-old and a wealthy playboy billionaire by day and a caped crusader by night. Only one of those is true. He’s actually a freelance writer, blogger, full-time film buff and some-time socially awkward nerd. He also writes about music, restaurants and nightlife for MetroWize Asia.

Hidzir was the winner of the inaugural inSing Movie Lover contest that garnered over 1,000 participants. The Movie Lover contest is a search for a candidate who possesses outstanding passion for movies and a talent for writing engaging movie reviews.