“There’s No Stopping Tony Scott”
Denzel Washington, Chris Pine
Directed by Tony Scott
Now arriving in movie theaters around the country: “Unstoppable,” the latest in a long line of slick and entertaining action thrillers from director Tony Scott (1986’s “Top Gun,” 1995’s “Crimson Tide”). It’s his second film based on a train after last year’s underrated and effective remake of “The Taking of Pelham 123,” only this time, the train is moving very, very fast. And the faster it goes, the more exciting the movie gets, which helps it get back on track after a slow-moving and shaky setup that’s filled with overused clichés and corny dialogue.
In the heart of blue-collar Brewster, Pennsylvania, veteran train engineer Frank Barnes (Denzel Washington) is very annoyed that his new conductor, Will Colson (Chris Pine), is a much younger rookie. Barnes feels threatened by Colson, while Colson is too preoccupied with personal matters to focus on his job. But when they learn that an unmanned runaway train with hazardous material is speeding towards a heavily populated area, they put aside their differences in an effort to put the brakes on what is effectively a missile the size of a skyscraper.
At first, “Unstoppable” is ridden with so many clichés, it’s hard to believe that the screenplay, written by Mark Bomback (2007’s “Live Free or Die Hard”), was based on actual events. No doubt that some creative liberties were taken to pump up the action elements, but character development could have used some pumping up as well. As it is, the most interesting thing about Barnes is that his daughters work at Hooters, but otherwise, his conflict with Colson (who’s estranged from his own family) feels contrived and uninspired.
But by the time Barnes and Colson catch up to the massive train, “Unstoppable” redeems itself with an exciting turn that will keep you on the edge of your seat for the last 40 minutes. That’s also when the chemistry between actors Denzel Washington (working for the fifth time with Tony Scott) and Chris Pine (in his first feature since commanding the U.S.S. Enterprise in last year’s excellent “Star Trek” reboot) becomes more engaging and defined.
So as long as you check your brain at the door before boarding “Unstoppable,” then you will enjoy the ride. It’s “Speed” on a train — it starts off slow, but it gets better as it goes along. And after directing movies for almost four decades, Tony Scott proves that he still has what it takes to conduct a slick and entertaining action thriller. So, how’s that for a career that is truly unstoppable?
Verdict: SEE IT!