Unstoppable is the most entertaining movie Tony Scott has done since True Romance and the only good one since Crimson Tide. If a movie about a runaway train endangering a large chunk of small town Pennsylvania doesn’t interest you, then you already know to stay away, but if that sounds entertaining this is the movie for you.

You’ve seen the trailer so you already know the out of control train is “a missile the size of the Chrysler building” containing 8 cars of combustible and toxic material and you also know that Denzel Washington and Chris Pine are the only two men who can stop it. Assorted dangers are thrown up along the way including a train full of children, nuns and kittens; a trailer full of horses; a train full of Washington and Pine themselves and finally the entire population of Stanton, PA.

Unstoppable is over-shot and over-edited (par for the Tony Scott course), but at a fat-free 95 minutes it never wears out its welcome. It gets in, quickly ratchets up the suspense and keeps it going until the very end. In between there’s a little room for some tacked on business with Denzel and his daughters and Pine and his wife, but this is a minor and probably necessary distraction.

Though her name and face aren’t prominently featured on the poster, Unstoppable’s secret weapon turns out to be a terrific Rosario Dawson as the woman in charge of the train yard. It’s a character that could just as easily have been played by a man, in fact it’s never made an issue that she’s a woman at all, but Dawson helps soften the macho, faux blue collar horseshit that clogs pretty much every other Tony Scott movie since after The Hunger. She’s incredibly likable and rootable and she does a lot with a role that asks her to be interesting and compelling while mostly talking into a headset. The movie would still work with a man in the role, but Dawson lifts it a bit.

This is not a classic for the ages, but sometimes you want an action movie that delivers exactly what you expect and Unstoppable does that competently and efficiently. No more and no less.

8 Responses to “Unstoppable (2010)”

  1. I enjoyed it, too. The weakest points for me (other than Tony Scott style) were definitely the womenfolk back home. The Hooters waitress daughters looked about as concerned for their daddy as they might for their team being in risk of losing a basketball game, and there’s no way a mother would take her young son to the site of a likely hazardous waste mega disaster to see his papa probably get killed. No way. Mercifully, there was very little of either of those tacked on storylines.

    Like the length of the mini-review format, too. A movie like this doesn’t need a review the size of the Chrysler building. :)

    Speaking of, did you see the Unstoppable trailer on SNL? It was the one funny bit I saw on there this weekend before I turned the whole show off in disgust.

  2. The daughters were terrible. Your basketball analogy is perfect! I kept thinking – he’s running across the top of a speeding train and all they can say is “Go dad!” ?

    There are so many reviews I don’t write, but hopefully I can get over that with mini reviews. It’s not so much even that they’re shorter, but they’re quicker to write and more informal. Hopefully I can keep up the same number of full reviews while rounding it out with a greater number of minis.

    We’ll see. I tried this once before last spring and it kind of fizzled out.

  3. I like your mini-review format, Craig, as a frame-by-frame analysis of Unstoppable’s montage sequences — not to mention Jungian symbolism — might be an assignment too monumental to fathom.

  4. And reading critics like Wells etc claim that Tony Scott is better than Spielberg or even Ridley is beyond baffling. Scott has no personality except to make everything look like a horrible late 80’s Simpson/Bruckheimer pablum. He’s never made one film I thought was good — except maybe THE HUNGER. And TRUE ROMANCE is good despite the blue venetian close-ups.

  5. Ha, Christian, Wells probably thinks Uwe Bowl has surpassed Spielberg by this point, too. Every year Wells hates on Spielberg more, making the matter obviously more about Wells than Spielberg.

    Tony Scott is the last director in Hollywood I would have sought out to remake The Taking of Pelham 123. That was a definitive ’70s movie that evoked a time, a place, a setting, and people. Scott’s movies evoke nothing but the occasional grasp at usually heavy-handed symbolism, as in Man on Fire and his unwieldy Pelham.

    It’s come to my attention in the last few years that with many of the most macho movies as of late are nearly invariably stolen by the only significant female presence. Not surprising that this trend is continuing with Unstoppable, though I’m a little curious about Chris Pine’s performance.

    A good review, Craig; you make me want to give it a try.

  6. I f’ing despised the Pelham remake. The original has a few issues, in other words it’s not sanctified and un-remarkable, but Scott jettisoned everything that was great about it – like you say the milieu, but also the grittiness of New York as it was plus a bunch of great characters and character actor performances – and he replaced them with crane shots of people talking on cell phones and John Travolta gagging on the scenery. A total travesty.

    Unstoppable probably won’t piss you off in that way, but it’s certainly not required viewing. If you’re in the mood for a dumb action picture, it’s worthy, but otherwise stay away.

    Christian, I wouldn’t call Wells a critic. He’s the bloggy equivalent of Glenn Beck. He’s an entertainer… at least to those who find him entertaining.

    Having said that, he’s not an idiot so I don’t completely understand his affinity for Tony Scott. He loves Ridley too and all I can say is that he has a soft spot for nice looking macho bullshit. Same thing that appeals to him about the infinitely more talented Michael Mann and in a more arty sense Innaritu.

    As for THE HUNGER, I used to regard it as a “good Tony Scott” but I tried to rewatch it over Halloween after many years and couldn’t stand it.

  7. Where the hell have you been Alexander?

  8. He’s been dressing up like a superhero and making the world safe for democracy.

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