I’m not exactly sure where the rest of the world stands with their like or dislike of Tony Scott is concerned, but I’ll be honest, I am not a fan. He consistently makes and markets films that don’t appeal to me in the slightest. I hated THE TAKING OF PELHAM 123 and skipped most of his other films, mainly just because the movies just don’t catch my eye. That being said, I actually found myself having fun watching UNSTOPPABLE, but not quite as much fun as I would have liked.
UNSTOPPABLE follows a group of railroad employees that include Frank (Denzel Washington), Will (Chris Pine) and Connie (Rosario Dawson). Will is a rookie conductor training with Frank on a day where a couple of lazy engineers (Ethan Suplee and T.J. Miller) manage to send an unmanned train full throttle down the main tracks sure to derail in a highly populated city, if it doesn’t hit any other trains head on first. Connie is a traffic controller looking to avert any possible disasters the train will cause. Once Will and Frank narrowly avoid a head on collision, Frank hatches a plan to get back on the tracks chase it down, hook it up and go full throttle the other direction to stop it.
I have a feeling that I had unfair expectations when I sat down to watch UNSTOPPABLE. All things considered I walked out liking the film enough to recommend it to everyone I know. My main complaint about the film is that I just don’t think that the kind of action in the film was the kind of action I want in these types of movies. More than half the movie revolves around people talking in an office and talking while inside of a train, with cuts of short action scenes of a train crashing into cars on the track and a Marine attempting to board and stop the runaway train. The action picks up a bit once we head into the final 10 to 15 minutes, which were much of the more satisfying action beats for me. Despite my disappointment in regards to action, there were stretches of dialogue I thought were fun and even interesting, but also several moments I could have done without specifically Chris Pine’s line of “we’re gonna run this bitch down.” It’s cheesy lines like that, that made me roll my eyes, even though I had fun with it.
Another gripe has to do with the camera movements, most notably within the beginning half hour. The establishing moments of the film are almost entirely just scenes explaining what’s going on and building the chemistry between Washington and Pine. All that is perfectly fine, the annoying part comes in the quick zoom ins or pan outs during the dialogue scenes almost like Scott is trying to pass them off as exciting action heavy set pieces. Passed the initial half hour I stopped noticing these as much so either they stopped altogether or they just stopped bothering me. The last nitpick I have involves the fact that the film is consistently pushing the fact that should the plain derail, it’s packed with insanely toxic and combustible material that will decimate an entire area, yet whenever they believe this event will occur there’s always hundreds and hundreds of people around with their cameras out and cops and fireman as well. It doesn’t make sense because they evacuate and entire town because this train is basically a speeding nuclear missile, but there’s always a mob of people packing the area they’ve just evacuated minutes before.
I don’t want to sound like I’m coming down completely and unjustly against the film, because I really did have fun with it. I feel like Chris Pine and Denzel Washington played off each other very well and were both very likable characters. I always enjoy Rosario Dawson and the small bits from Ethan Suplee and T.J. Miller are enjoyable. There’s a good deal of quick jokes and laughs to be had through the film as well.
Although it may sound like overall I have more complaints than praises for UNSTOPPABLE, I wouldn’t be too quick to just write the film off. There is plenty of content within the film to satisfy almost every type of moviegoer, even if I don’t feel it will be their most memorable watch of the year. UNSTOPPABLE easily has the steam to be a hit and Tony Scott’s runaway train escapade definitely exceeded my wildest expectations, but considering how low my expectations were, that’s not the most flattering of compliments.