After a train yard mishap, a locomotive containing toxic chemicals is left brakeless and unmanned. Rapidly gathering speed, it’s up to experienced engineer Frank Barnes (Washington) and rookie conductor Will Colson (Pine) to stop the runaway freight train before it derails in the populated regions of Pennsylvania…
Barely a year after his bombastic and generally unloved remake of The Taking Of Pelham 123, filmmaker Tony Scott is back on the tracks again with regular muse Denzel Washington in their fifth – yes fifth – collaboration. But while you’d be forgiven for expecting a predictable blend of over-styled visuals and numbing slam-bangs, the result is pleasantly surprising, with the British filmmaker utilising a classic disaster movie scenario (inspired by true events) to unexpectedly exciting effect. Okay, so it’s no Speed, but Unstoppable is often thrilling and, arguably, Scott’s most enjoyable picture in years.
Undoubtedly, it’s still a simplistic Hollywood blockbuster with an admittedly lean premise (two guys try to stop a runaway train, pure and simple), but there are enough twists and turns that it never feels as one-note as it is. Like Scott’s best work – see Crimson Tide – the setup precludes intermittent shootouts and car chases (even though the whole movie is one big chase and cars figure during the climax), while his refreshing preference for practical effects and stunt-work over CGI lends the whole thing a gritty, blue-collar realism. The lead characters are somewhat generic – the oldschool, always-right veteran and the impetuous, hot-headed, rookie – but Denzel and rising star Chris Pine have enough spiky chemistry to make it work, while the lovely Rosario Dawson lends able support.
While undoubtedly a simplistic Hollywood blockbuster with a lean premise, Unstoppable is a pleasantly surprising thriller which, arguably, is Tony Scott’s most enjoyable picture in years.