Unstoppable review 
|REVIEWS - MOVIES|
A second take on Tony Scott's rogue train outing...
Denzel Washington is the greatest African-American actor of all time. Just look at the evidence; Malcolm X, The Hurricane, Remember the Titans, Training Day, Man on Fire, American Gangster; the list goes on and on. He has played every character imaginable, from a highly controversial human rights activist to one of America’s most infamous drug lords, and has brought the same level of conviction and passion to each role. Now, reunited with his Man on Fire director, Tony Scott, and one of Hollywood’s brightest talents, Star Trek's own Chris Pine, I was sure that I was in for a memorable hour and a half; thankfully, Unstoppable did not disappoint.
Based very loosely on a true event that took place in Ohio on May 15th 2001, Unstoppable tells the remarkable story of how a single moment of incompetence from a railway worker led to a two-hour chase of a 47-car unmanned freight train carrying a number of highly flammable chemical containers across the state of Pennsylvania. After a number of failed attempts to reduce the train's speed, and an audacious effort to land a marine on the train itself, railway veteran Frank Barnes (Denzel Washington) and his newly qualified conductor Will Coulson (Chris Pine) take it upon themselves to stop the train before it destroys the town in which they both live.
Both Barnes and Pine have emotional connections to the story, and their strong - if not somewhat dysfunctional - family backgrounds make both characters engaging. The moments of family communication, although limited, are both tender and poignant, with Washington and Pine doing justice to the emotional natures of their characters. The incorporation of their own personal demons and off-rail difficulties succeeds in adding a human dimension to what could easily have become a mere 'action' film. Pine's performance is set to further boost his rateability at the box-office in the wake of Star Trek.
Yet the film’s success rarely comes from this powerful duo; the pair are presented as just two elements in a bigger scheme, a refreshing touch which ultimately makes their acts of heroism believable, accessible and almost seamlessly woven into the action. The camaraderie and tight-knit friendships of the rail workers form Unstoppable's emotional foundation.
Rosario Dawson is prominent as Connie, giving both a believable and encapsulating performance whilst providing a number of laughs throughout. But it's Lew Temple’s performance as Ned which is really the hidden gem of this film. They say that every actor has a potentially perfect role, and one can’t help but feel that this is Temple's; likeable, ostentatious and totally unpredictable, Ned’s character becomes appealing even against the viewer's instincts.
The film is not without fault. Although accompanied by a stellar cast of Hollywood talent and a fine flock of bit cameos, anyone with previous Tony Scott experience will be able to identify his work immediately here; his over-reliance upon panning-camera angles and his apparent allergy to fixed-camera shots means that the film occasionally lacks a degree of depth.
Combined with the fact that the story itself is rather inconsequential, it would be fair to say that this film won’t be redefining cinematic history any time soon. Despite exceptionally attention-grabbing moments such as an under-the-train shot and an on-track collision, unfortunately when such moments finish, you're back to the overzealous panning that Scott has become known for.
One has to question Scott’s choice of idea for his latest release. Because of the story's localised and limited coverage, it seems hard to see how an international audience will be able to truly involve themselves with it. If the tale of the rogue train had received national interest, it may have provided the film a degree of marketing leverage. As it is, you may end up feeling that Scott has taken on too much here and, even with its star-studded cast and $100 million rumoured budget, was just a challenge too much.
Unstoppable is both visually and audibly stunning and - story aside - entertaining fare. While it may not boast the deepest plot, it's compensated by its character-accessibility and the subsequent connection that this establishes with its audience. Scott has taken a rather average news-story and attempted to sensationalise it enough for Hollywood. This is an audience-driven feature that delivers on a number of different levels, a fresh take on a stale genre and one that inspires a strong, if not awe-inspiring, recommendation.
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