'Unstoppable' (dir: Tony Scott, 2010), Cert: 12A
It seems director Tony Scott has become rather fond of trains recently; coming off the back of his poor remake ‘The Taking of Pelham 123’, Scott has continued his prolonged relationship with Denzel Washington for his new high-speed Thriller, ‘Unstoppable’. Based on gripping true events, this movie should bulldoze through its audience and leave them perched on the edge of their seats. So does Scott pack the punches, or is this another over-crowded tube ride?
Will Colson (Chris Pine) is down on his luck. His marriage is on the rocks; he’s living with his brother and desperately trying to hold down a job. He is a training conductor for a Pennsylvania train company. When he is paired with veteran train engineer Frank Barnes (Washington), it seems to be a typical day of being bossed around by his peers. But across town, a train numbered 777 has been left unattended and left in power mode causing it to runaway without a driver. The train is nearly a mile long and its cargo is incredibly dangerous. It’s more of a missile than a means of transport. Train 777 is heading towards the densely populated Stanton at 70mph which could destroy the town and its citizens. Will and Frank now need to set aside their differences and team up to stop this time-bomb exploding.
‘Unstoppable’ is another movie this year to be falsely advertised. The trailer makes it look like a fairly standard Action-Thriller when really it’s actually an incredibly tense and intelligent film that forces the viewer into a headlock for 100 minutes. Sure it has some cheesy moments; you can almost cue the overly dramatic cheers and Denzel’s signature chuckle, but as a film, it’s very solid and provides a whirlwind of entertainment.
Scott’s direction is some of the best camerawork in 2010. ‘Unstoppable’ is crammed with crafty angles and shaky effects that only force the nauseating atmosphere onto the audience further. In one sequence involving a helicopter dropping a man with a parachute onto the train, Scott whips the camera round in such a quick and unique pan, it almost looks like the screen turns 360°. His brother Ridley may capture more epic landscapes, but Tony knows how to direct Action so well, and this is one of his finest examples.
I was impressed with how well this film gelled together too. I was excited to see it but I had doubts as to whether they could make a film about a runaway train stay interesting for that period of time but my worries were eliminated after about 15 minutes. The train heads on its chaotic journey in the first 10 but from then on, the audience gasp and wheeze through the remaining 90 as the never-ending peril kicks in.
Washington and Pine deliver great performances too; they have exceptional screen chemistry that was essential for the movie. Many joked that this film would follow stereotypical traits (White and Black men teaming up/Young and Old as partners), but the pair push these ideas aside and allow room for their relationships as characters to evolve. They share stories of their past which are amusing and saddening too which is a wonderful thing to see in a big-budget Actioner.
I think many will be pleasantly surprised by this film; it’s definitely not what it says on the tin. The trailer is horribly misleading so take no notice of it. ‘Unstoppable’ is a riot of a movie that uses cool and collective tension to grasp its viewers rather than a tyrant of explosions and pyrotechnics.
Verdict: 4 out of 5 – Miles better than Scott’s last entry. A fast-paced, white-knuckle rollercoaster ride that pushes its audience to the limit. A grand achievement.
By Chris Haydon