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Review: Unstoppable (2010)

Unstoppable (2010)

Directed by: Tony Scott

Premise: Based on a true story, a pair of train conductors tries to stop a runaway locomotive carrying toxic chemicals before it reaches a populated area.

What Works: Unstoppable is a good, fun popcorn movie and one of the best films Tony Scott has made. This picture stands out among a lot of recent action films in its grounded and realistic style. The premise of the story is just convincing enough to be conceivable and actors Chris Pine and Denzel Washington work together very naturally. The film gives each of them just a skeleton of a back story but it is enough to provide each of the men with some sense of character and empathy. The film moves along at a very fast pace but director Tony Scott is a little more restrained in his style than he has been in some of his recent pictures and controls the pace of the story in the right way, slowing down just enough to provide the tension or exposition. That judicious style extends to the action scenes. Whatever computer generated imagery was used in the film is not obvious and the stunts are shot in such a way that the characters appear in genuine jeopardy rather than working in front of a green screen in a Hollywood studio. This style suits the film’s rural, east coast setting and Unstoppable utilizes a rustic, lived-in look to further sell the reality of its story. This makes the chases much more exciting and the film’s story of working class heroes much more appealing.

What Doesn’t: Unstoppable has one notable weakness: its regard for the female characters. With the exception of a yardmaster played by Rosario Dawson, all of them exist as mere eye candy and their duty in the film is to stand by in awe as the men save the day. And even the integrity of Dawson’s role is undone in the end by a stupid self-deprecating joke to Chris Pine and Denzel Washington’s characters. This is all in the subtext of the movie; it’s not what Unstoppable is about. But the film’s retread of sexist imagery is there nonetheless.

Bottom Line: Unstoppable is a lot of fun. It’s no brainteaser but the likable performances of Chris Pine and Denzel Washington as well as the effective direction by Tony Scott makes this a very satisfying action picture.

Episode: #316 (November 21, 2010)