Review: Unstoppable

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This is Will Coalson your conductor speaking, we are gonna run this bitch down.

Tony Scott is all over the place when it comes to his filmography. Sometimes you’ll like them (Man on Fire, Crimson Tide), other times you’ll wonder what he was trying to do (Domino) and they are times where he veers from good and bad in the same film (The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3). He can be an infuriating and thankfully with Unstoppable he manages to craft a very enjoyable film.

It’s funny, fun and exciting, the type of film that whizzes past in a blur and for all Tony Scott’s at times unnecessary stylistic tics, the easy going charm of both the leads make Unstoppable the fun, entertaining film that it is.

The plot is unashamedly simple. A mistake by a train worker causes an unmanned, half a mile long train with toxic chemicals to career down the tracks at speeds of up 75mph and it’s heading straight for the city of Scranton (which made me think of The US Office). A veteran engineer Frank (Denzel Washington) and the newly promoted conductor Will (Chris Pine) track the train down in order to avert a major catastrophe. Apparently it’s based on true events that occurred in 2001 but obviously ‘spiced’ up for the screen.

What’s so strong about the film is its simplicity which allows Tony Scott to focus on the actors, build tension and concentrate on destroying cars and trains. There isn’t anything profound with Unstoppable. It feels like an old school action flick that after a slow start moves along at a good pace.

Characters are etched thinly and even though the roles aren’t particularly demanding keeping in mind the calibre of the actors at hand, it’s enjoyable to watch these actors work. Kevin Dunn plays his character as predictable as you would think, concerned with shareholders and profits more than safety. Kevin Corrigan and Rosario Dawson do well but again like all the characters in the film there’s not a whole lot of substance.

When some substance is brought up you’d wish the film would drop the pretence of creating relatable characters and just get back on solid ground. Frank has problems keeping in touch with his daughters, while Will is estranged from his wife after an altercation with a police officer. The private lives serve as a reminder of what they’re fighting for in order to stop the train from smashing into Scranton but it always feels as if it’s on the periphery of the main narrative.

Scott is adept with the action, mixing wide aerial shots with closer ones. The camera is more restrained than in previous films where he would over and under crank like a madman. He still cuts it fast and dollies the camera round but keeps it gritty and real and refrains from shooting his wad all over the screen.

Unless you’re sitting at the front it shouldn’t give you a headache or make sick (as I’ve read it has done). What Scott definitely gets right is in how he handles the train; it is an unstoppable, unfeeling and dangerous force. The way he frames the train and the sound design savage feel.

Unstoppable is enjoyable slice of action cinema. Don’t expect too much and it will entertain you with its charm.

8/10

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Posted on 24/11/2010, in Best of, Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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