A great deal of popcorn flicks deliver exactly what viewers expect going in: to be entertained during a short escape from reality and nothing more. At the same time, it must also be noted that these types of films can take it to the next level if they want to, and hit very high emotional notes with the viewers, creating characters that audiences don‘t just want to see succeed, but also connect to on some level. While this technique isn’t required to ensure high-entertainment value, it does go a long way in leaving the viewer with a lasting impression of the film, instead of just a fleeting memory. Unstoppable falls into the latter category, as it’s fun, yet forgettable.
The film stars Denzel Washington as Frank, a veteran train engineer, who is set to train rookie conductor Will (Chris Pine) during his first day on the tracks. Unfortunately for them they aren’t alone on those tracks, as a runaway train is on a collision course with them, as well as a train full of children, and finally, a highly populated city.
Yes, writing it that way makes it sound sillier than it actually is; however, while you can’t have a train on a collision course with another train for an entire movie, it does cause a bit of eye-rolling when things are constantly getting out of the way of this unmanned killing machine just milliseconds before it hits. Of course nobody wants to see a train filled with children get destroyed, but is there really any suspense there where the audience is thinking, Oh, maybe they just might! I get that there are limited ways you can create suspense in this sort of scenario, but there’s just a sense of real danger lacking from the film, which really hinders it.
Add onto that the characters, which are your complete stereotypes for this set-up, complete with a hot-shot yardmaster (played by Rosario Dawson) who isn’t afraid to rebel against her ‘evil corporate’ boss (Kevin Dunn) who just has money on his mind, and makes every mistake in the book because of it. Luckily, our heroes Frank and Will decide to make an attempt to catch the train (which also happens to have explosive materials, as well as fuel on board), and try and help avert what could be a disaster of epic proportions.
Now, the above likely makes it sound like I completely hated the film, and didn’t enjoy myself at all, and that’s not true. One of the major pros the film has going for it is just how well Director Tony Scott paces the action. While it may not put you on the edge of your seat, there is always a sense of speed, both with the camera work used (a lot of which is done by helicopter, disguised in the film as news and lookout choppers), and how even the minimal character development is done as our heroes talk to one another while flying down the railroad in hot pursuit of their target.
Washington and Pine do fine jobs in their roles, though they aren’t really given much to work with outside of two sob stories that are used as a quick attempt (everything is fast-paced!) to gain viewer sympathy. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t work on some level, at least for Washington’s character. Scott’s direction is also spot-on, as he admitted this film was the toughest one he’s ever worked on, both “physically, and mentally.” While not entirely surprising with just how well he keeps the breakneck speed going throughout.
While Unstoppable lacks the depth, and memorable moments that would make it a popcorn flick to watch time and time again, it’s definitely worth checking out. It’s fast, it’s fun, and it’s simple, giving you a chance to turn your brain off for a an hour and a half and just enjoy the ride.
Presented in widescreen 2:40.1, the film looks great. The speed of the film is really captured in every scene, with trees whipping by, yet not a complete blur. The lighting is great, with the film taking place throughout the course of a day, so there are no darkened or shadow filled moments that break the clarity of things. The audio is DTS-HD Master Audio, and sounds great. No complaints to be had in either of these two categories.
Director’s Commentary with Tony Scott – This is self-explanatory, and for a film he treasures so closely, this is one that fans of Scott, or the film may want to give a listen to, as he gives the ins and outs of his directing style on the film.
Tracking the Story: Unstoppable Script Development – Here’s a feature that runs alongside the film, that you can turn on or off, just as you would a commentary. This one would obviously be for fans only, as first time viewers don’t want to be bothered with things interrupting the action.
The Fastest Track: Unleashing Unstoppable – Here’s a roughly 30 minute feature that has the cast and crew talking about the film, especially Director Tony Scott. He speaks about how hard certain scenes were to shoot, as well as how he came up with ways to work helicopters into the story as a way to not only add to the action, but get better shots as well.
Derailed: Anatomy of a Scene – This stunt is briefly touched upon in the feature above, yet this featurette is dedicated to it alone, breaking down everything from where cameras, and explosives were placed, to just how they derailed the train entirely.
Hanging Off the Train: Stunt Work – Here’s a 14 minute featurette that focuses on some of the stunts done in the film, including a stuntman hanging from a helicopter, as well as Chris Pine and his stuntman doing a scene between two moving train cars, to Denzel Washington leaping from car to car.
On the Rails with the Director and Cast – Sometimes you can’t get anything out of anyone important in the extras, and here you just can’t shut them up! That’s not a bad thing, however, as Scott, Washington, Pine and Dawson all sit down for a 13 minute interview, once again talking about the film, and various aspects of the filming process.
Unstoppable is a fun, fast-paced, action film that definitely has to be viewed while in the right mindset. If you’re not able to turn your brain off and just enjoy it for what it is, then certain flaws and plot holes will jump out at you, and easily ruin the film. If you can ignore these things, and just watch two guys try to stop a train filled with explosives, you’ll feel much more justified in the time you spend watching it.
Twentieth Century Fox presents Unstoppable. Directed by: Tony Scott. Starring: Denzel Washington, Chris Pine, Rosario Dawson, Ethan Suplee. Running time: 98 minutes. Rating: PG-13. Released on Blu-ray and DVD: Feb. 15, 2011.
Tags: Chris Pine, Denzel Washington, Rosario Dawson, Tony Scott, Unstoppable