VOD film review: Unstoppable
Ivan | On 07, May 2014
Director: Tony Scott
Cast: Denzel Washington, Chris Pine, Rosario Dawson
Man vs Train. That’s the central premise of Unstoppable, Denzel Washington and Tony Scott’s second film – after The Taking of Pelham 123 – to feature train-based action. Unlike that remake, this is based on a true tale, as ludicrous as that might sound. If that means you spend the whole film waiting for an “unstoppable” train to actually stop, that doesn’t take away from the fun.
From the opening slow-motion camera shots of train carriages sitting stationary in a siding – accompanied by menacing music – it’s clear that Unstoppable isn’t going to be a subtle ride. But it’s also stripped-down enough to offer pure on-rails entertainment: within minutes, we see a silly railway employee accidentally unleash the metal beast of the title.
Fortunately, another two men are on hand to solve the problem. One of them looks a lot like Denzel Washington, who is, as we all know, cinema’s everyman. This man has a phone and a daughter who doesn’t talk to him, and so he spends a lot of his time using the phone to try and talk to said daughter. At his side is a younger man who looks a lot like Chris Pine. Unlike Washington’s veteran, he’s training to become an engineer to avoid a complicated back-story. He also has a phone and a woman in his life who doesn’t talk to him. Together, they bond over the women who aren’t talking to either of them and look at their phones whenever they’re not busy getting on with the plot. Which, in case you’ve forgotten, involves stopping a really fast train.
Cutting between a tense control room and the choo-choo of doom, Scott intersperses the action with a lot of faux-Fox News footage – including one unintentionally funny moment where troopers attempt to shoot at the train as it rushes past, trying to hit the fuel valve, centimetres away from the much bigger, and highly flammable, fuel tank. But Scott’s whip-smart editing feeds into the simplicity of the high-octane premise. The camera whizzes about at speeds in excess of 60mph – any slower and it presumably blows up.
The result is the ending of Mission: Impossible or Speed, but spun out for 90 minutes. Even helicopters turn up at one point. At all times, the film’s relentlessly entertaining drive is smart enough to keep things just on the right side of dumb. “We’re talking about a missile the size of the Chrysler building,” declares Rosario Dawson’s train yardmaster Connie, who turns up on the phone to explain things to everyone with a straight face. What more could you want?