Directed by Tony Scott
Starring Denzel Washington, Chris Pine, Rosario Dawson, Kevin Corrigan
From start to finish, director Tony Scott’s “Unstoppable” offers raw suspense and preposterously harrowing moments. At the same time, it tests your good will toward a director who treats his audience as though they’re deaf and dense.
Denzel Washington stars as a veteran train engineer who, with a newbie conductor (Chris Pine), chases after an unmanned runaway train before it and its combustible cargo derail and crash. They’re assisted by an unflappable yardmaster (Rosario Dawson) and hampered by a clichéd suit who makes the types of bad, corporate-driven decisions you’d expect a clichéd suit to make in a movie with a working class protagonist.
Washington is his usual charming self, damage-controlling a tense situation with the same jovial composure he’d hold while flipping burgers at a family barbecue. Pine, as his young partner, serves mostly as a foil for Washington’s bravado. Never mind the actors, though. They’re almost incidental, wedged as they are between amped-up shots of locomotives screeching and hurtling through working class towns, trailed by choppers and police cars and observed by throngs of curious onlookers.
If it’s thrills you’re looking for, you’ll get them. Indeed, it’s hard not to appreciate the movie’s urgency when Scott is constantly reminding you of how fast, monstrous and out of control the rogue train is. When you’re not riveted, you’re actually recoiling at the overblown, brain-glazing exhibition of it all. Scott ratchets up the fast cuts and decibel levels to unnecessary extremes, like someone yelling in your face to make a point that you’ve already conceded. To add insult to eardrum injury, the hollow banter and false emotional notes range from passable to laughably inane.
That said, Scott’s frenetic filmmaking is perfect for “Unstoppable.” This is such solid, mindless entertainment, that it threatens to edge out your sense of good taste. Is it crude storytelling? Yes, but who wants to think such wet blanket thoughts when you’re on such an adrenaline high? So, we’ll overlook the badness because we’re there for the fun, but it doesn’t mean we’ll forget it.