Unstoppable (2010)

Unstoppable (2010)
  • Time: 98 min
  • Genre: Action | Thriller
  • Director: Tony Scott
  • Cast: Denzel Washington, Chris Pine, Rosario Dawson


Will Colson is starting a new job as a train conductor for the railroad. He is assigned to work with Frank Barnes a veteran train engineer. Initially there’s some tension between them. Later a train that is carrying chemicals is running with no one controlling it. It is feared that if it stops or crashes into a populated area it could disastrous. Connie, an exec suggests derailing it but the man in charge refuses to do that on account of what it will cost. When attempts to stop it fail, there’s fear of what they can do. But when Frank and Will have a close call with it, Frank decides to stop it themselves by coupling on to it. Will is not sure about it but sticks with Frank.

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  • As much as not all-regular commuters take the train on a daily basis, the railroad has always been an important asset to various interests since its commencement during the 1800s. Whether its passenger or freight trains, railways are one of the biggest systems of transportation for anything that needs a direct way of travel. However, this complicated arrangement of simultaneous operations would not work right or be safe enough for anyone to be apart of if it were not for the array of classes that specialize in this field. The train engineer, conductor, signalman, stationmaster and so on all have to coordinate exactly by the book because if one thing is left unchecked, several severe consequences can arise. One of which is loss of property and that is no loose change purchase. It’s one of those jobs where if you screw up once, there’s really no way your going to be getting a second chance.

    The plot to this “you can’t afford to be lazy” thriller is when station master Connie (Rosario Dawson) and her boss Galvin (Kevin Dunn) find out that a rather unqualified train engineer (Ethan Suplee) managed to lose control of a mile long freight train out the yard and onto the public railway line. As soon as this occurs, chaos and mass hysteria ensues for somewhere along the line comes a sharp curve that lies over a populated city that the train won’t be able to make. Despite this major problem there are people who can help. Frank Barns (Denzel Washington) a 28-year veteran of the railway and greenthumb Will Colson (Chris Pine) team up to try and slow down the runaway train. Directed by genre action/thriller veteran Tony Scott, once the train leaves the yard the pacing does not slow down from there and rightfully so. Written by Mark Bomback (Live Free or Die Hard (2007)), which was adapted from an actual event that occurred almost a decade before, this intense thriller is one of those cautionary tales about how detrimental one slip can be if your not careful enough (whether it was intentional or not).

    Aside from how quickly paced scenes move in this film, there are a number of scenes for character development. Because there are moments that involve trains catching up to each other, this allows room for Frank and Will to talk and emote to each other about their separate lives and what they are currently dealing with. Frank is a widower with two daughters trying to make it through college and Will is a guy who’s been put on a restraining order for a rash decision he made. Although at times these two characters bicker they do have heart and that makes them likable. This is important for main characters. Even Connie (Dawson) who comes off as hot headed at times is a sympathetic character because her situation is just as critical as the person whose trying to stop the train. Also, Dawson’s knowledge of train terminology is astounding (apparently she has railroad experience in real life). Even for actor Kevin Dunn, who normally plays parent roles plays his character the right way, which represents how business leadership can become tainted over time.

    As for the set pieces, there’s something to admire about how real this film feels. For a plot that is described as extremely hazardous, it is amazing that a number of the action sequences were done live. Could you imagine being on a runaway diesel train with 30+ cars on the back end? What’s great specifically about the runaway train is about how it’s portrayed. Whenever the train appears on screen, it screams metallic echoes that are a bit terrifying even from a passive point of view (from not literally being there). Envision the power behind all that weight and then speed it up,…it is literally a monster that is indestructible. The only visual elements that seem illogical are mostly the technical parts. For majority of the time, the special effects are kept to a minimum but there is one scene that looks like it wasn’t touched up as nicely as it could’ve been. Also like a lot of action films, sometimes the laws of physics are blown off just to have the film go a certain way and here is no different. Some things just shouldn’t be possible.

    The other two components that work in this film’s favor however are its cinematography and music. The director of photography was handled by Ben Seresin best known for shooting Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009) a year before and went on to shoot for Pain & Gain (2013) and World War Z (2013). Much of Seresin’s work has great wide-angle shots of terrain, sky and the rail lines. When it comes to a film like this where everything is on the move, it is definitely important for the viewer to have an understanding of geography within the story and Seresin is able to display that efficiently. The music composed by Harry Gregson-Williams was also a surprise. Although there isn’t a truly recognizable theme for the runaway train other than staccotoed notes randomly throughout the score, Williams does have a theme for Frank and Will which to be quite honest is the best tune. The motif is lightly played on the piano and it has real emotion. The action cues do its job at hightening the experience of tension but it isn’t as thematically integrated when being listen to alone.

    Aside from having some implausible physics and undoctored special effects in a few areas, this thriller goes beyond comfortability with its suburban setting and realistic dangers of what happens when someone isn’t paying attention. The actors perform well, the writing develops them nicely, the music gives the right amount of emotion, the cinematography and practical set pieces make it all the more real.

    Points Earned –> 8:10

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