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2 reviews, 17 user ratings

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Unstoppable (2010)
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by Jay Seaver

"Just get out of the way."
4 stars

"Unstoppable" isn't complicated. The filmmakers take a story about working class heroes facing long odds with high stakes and more or less lets it be, resisting the temptation to graft excessive contrivance or melodrama to an already thrilling situation. It's a fine example of how when a storyteller has a good story to work with and the means to tell it, everybody will be well-served by just getting out of the way - an apt metaphor for a story about a runaway train.

The train - filled with combustible and toxic chemicals! - is a runaway because Dewey (Ethan Suplee), a yard worker in central Pennsylvania, set the throttle in the wrong position when he hopped off to switch the tracks. Now it's picking up speed heading the wrong direction on the main line. Traffic supervisor Connie (Rosario Dawson) tracks the train but can't convince her boss (Kevin Dunn) to derail it early. Instead, it winds up on a collision course with a train driven by veteran engineer Frank (Denzel Washington) and rookie conductor Will (Chris Pine) - but Frank may be the guy who figures out how to stop it without major loss of life and property.

Part of the fun of a movie like Unstoppable is how, along with delivering an exciting thrill ride, it gives audiences an idea of the inner workings of something they tend to take for granted - railroads, in this case. Details can be fun, and both writer Mark Bomback and director Tony Scott do a good job of showing how this railway system works from top to bottom, doing it in context so that the information sinks into the audience's brains without dragging around a character whose entire purpose is to have things explained to him. Because of that, we're able to grasp the problems that the heroes are struggling with instinctively, and feel like we're working it right along with them.

Just as there aren't any characters around to bring out exposition, there also aren't any outside experts brought in to save the day. The closest the film comes to that is Kevin Corrigan as a book-smart Federal Inspector, but he winds up more a pleasantly awkward assistant than a savior. Instead, the film mainly focuses on Frank and Will, played by Washington and Pine as capable blue-collar types with both a natural antagonism and the good sense to generally put it aside. They're natural enough in those roles to be enjoyable to watch before they're directly involved in the runaway train story, and do a nice job of not completely burying that hostility 100% when the time for action comes. Rosario Dawson gives Connie authority without making her feel like an obstacle, and Kevin Dunn makes her boss condescending with being a sneering villain.

The action is strong, too. Tony Scott is not a guy who is going to hide from bombast, and the score by Harry Gregson-Williams is certainly willing to help pump things up, but Scott doesn't get too cut-happy or enamored with slow motion. What's going on is grounded and easy to follow, making sure that we realize what Frank and Will are doing is difficult but not superhuman. The cut-aways to Frank's daughters and Will's estranged wife and son aren't excessive.

Unfortunately, the cut-aways to live news coverage absolutely are. They border on maddening, actually: Not only does filling the screen with relatively grainy video and adding this layer of abstraction distance the audience from the exciting, tense things going on, the voiceovers and text crawls tend to do nothing but tell us what we already know, even recapping what was in the last scene. It's beyond annoying, especially considering how well the filmmakers have done at giving us information naturally, and I'd love it if the Blu-ray release offered a cut with it eliminated or replaced with unobstructed views of the action (even if that might cut ten minutes out of the movie).

That flaw doesn't make "Unstoppable" any less fun and exciting overall; it just indicates how much fun things could be if Scott and company had stuck to what serves them so well - recognizing a good story and telling it with style.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=19519&reviewer=371
originally posted: 11/18/10 13:55:48
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User Comments

1/22/19 morris campbell taunt and swift a good popcorn movie 4 stars
2/09/17 Fire WithFire The REAL man in the Real story was WHITE. Bitch slap YOU, Hollywood!!!! 1 stars
4/30/13 Monday Morning Sorry, it was way over my head. Didn't understand. 3 stars
7/20/12 Sean Harrison Not as good as Man on Fire, but still one of Tony Scott's best. 3 stars
8/01/11 Piz better-than-expected tense action flick that falls a bit at the end, but enough to enjoy 4 stars
4/26/11 Richard79 Bomb-Hack wrote that abomination Dire Hard 4. Avoid! 1 stars
4/02/11 Faraz adrenaline rusH 5 stars
3/19/11 ad Hail OSHE 2 stars
2/21/11 mr.mike Taut and suspensful. 4 stars
2/19/11 RePTaR The phony ending ruined this for me. Never make up fake where are they now info for drama. 3 stars
2/01/11 Sean Felt like an industrial safety film with a plot. 2 stars
12/20/10 damalc pretty much "Armageddon," (train=asteroid) with a bit of "Duel." tense. 4 stars
12/14/10 millersxing Tony Scott rides the Denzel gravy train once again 4 stars
11/23/10 Rob steffenino Cris Pine kicks butt 4 stars
11/22/10 Lisa Kloowte 1 stars
11/13/10 Dorothy Rozdilsky Riding the train is great 3 stars
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  12-Nov-2010 (PG-13)
  DVD: 15-Feb-2011


  DVD: 15-Feb-2011

Directed by
  Tony Scott

Written by
  Mark Bomback

  Denzel Washington
  Chris Pine

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