Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

A group of friends wanted to go to the movies on the weekend that Denzel’s latest joint ‘Unstoppable’ was released, with the choices being this movie or the alien invasion flick ‘Skyline’. I advised these friends of mine that we should see ‘Skyline’, but not because I thought ‘Skyline’ would be better… to the contrary… I’m almost convinced that ‘Skyline’ would be inferior in every possible way, but I’m also convinced that ‘Skyline’, being a wildcard, would give a group of friends something to talk about in a spirited way after it was over. I know what we’re getting with ‘Unstoppable’. Solid, slick, high dollar entertainment playing the right predictable notes at the right predictable moment, Denzel Washington flashing Hollywood’s greatest teeth, plenty of Chris Pine’s sparkling baby blues, Rosario Dawson teasing us, reminding us we can never have her and Tony Scott shaking the heck out his camera. We know this beforehand. I lost, we saw ‘Unstoppable’, it was everything we thought it would be, nothing more, nothing less, nothing really to talk about, go home, evening over. Independently this same group of friends all saw ‘Skyline’ and now there’s spirited e-mail debates over how stupid that movie was. Not surprisingly, I was right again.

Somewhere in an alternate universe version of Pennsylvania a couple of lazy incompetent union railroad workers / slackers have stupidly released a train loaded with explosive fuel and toxic chemicals roaring down the track unmanned. Subtext: Unions are bad. Connie Hooper (Dawson) the hard working conscientious yard manager, once she realizes that thing isn’t just ‘coasting’ but is speeding under full power, knows mighty quickly that this is an awfully bad thing and advises her boss (Kevin Dunn) that they need to derail this train while it’s in the middle of nowhere before it hits populated areas. Bossman on the other hand has to crunch the numbers, examine the dollar loss and computate the stock ramifications. Subtext: Corporations are bad.

Now before this 70mph mini nuke gets the attention of our heroes Frank Barnes (Washington) and Will Colson (Pine) it has to threaten a trainload of school kids, take out a trailer full of horses, and mortally threaten a couple of train employees trying

to execute Incompetent Corps plan to stop this thing. Frank, the veteran who is being forced out and Will, the punk trainee who doesn’t listen… after almost getting killed by the evil train named 777… realize that they are the only hope for Scranton PA and Frank’s hot Hooter Girl adult teenaged daughters. Subtext: having teenaged daughters is bad.

Adventure is now afoot and in a big way. Our heroes are racing, in reverse, to catch the train and force that puppy to cease and desist, while getting to know each other of course. Connie is at home base giving the boys the play by play and she has a safety inspector / mathematical genius (Kevin Corrigan) by her side dispensing critical mathematical computations. Bossman at corporate is freaking out incompetently and the world is waiting and watching, hoping for the best. Will this movie’s conclusion surprise you in any shape or form? Only if you are under age of six.

What is there to say about ‘Unstoppable’? I mean has Tony Scott ever directed a bad film? Maybe ‘The Fan’… maybe? ‘Days of Thunder’… maybe? If ‘Days of Thunder’ is the worse you can do and you’ve made a bunch of movies then the chances are you must be pretty good at what you do. The challenge for Mr. Scott in this movie would be how to make a train, that to be honest looked like it was going 7 MPH on occasion as opposed to 70, a suitable villain. That challenge was met by keeping the tension of this situation consistently high, enhanced by a lot of quick cuts and booming HiFi surround sound. In addition there were a number of harrowing hair raising near misses… despite the fact we knew they were going to be near misses… and lots and lots and lots of Tony Scott’s trademark shaky cam. The train might not have been going all that fast all the time but the camera more than made up for it. I know this was ‘inspired’ by a true story which could mean just about anything, but in reality if an out of control train was hurtling down a track loaded with explosives, I’m of the mind that I’m not going to be standing on the side of the track taking cell phone pictures of it. I’m not doing that. And what was up with that obnoxious news helicopter? I’m jumping railcars trying to save the day while at the same time avoiding the lethal vortex creating rotary blades of a news helicopter six feet away.

While the runaway train was probably this film’s true star you know you can’t go too terribly wrong with Denzel Washington in the drivers seat of your movie and Chris Pine made for a good sparring partner. The dramatic stuff on the periphery, the Hootergirl daughters, the estranged wife and the cute toddler were just that… peripheral fluff… and I don’t think the movie wouldn’t have been any worse for the wear if they had left that stuff out, but the Hootergirl daughters were plenty cute.

As expected ‘Unstoppable’ is can’t miss, high dollar, solid, slick, completely predictable but also somewhat disposable entertainment. Sometimes you go to the show and you just want what you want and ‘Unstoppable’ gives audiences what they want.

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