Reviews For The Easily Distracted:
Starring: Malcolm X, Captain Kirk, and Mrs. Alexander the Great.
Does Rosario Dawson Get Naked In This? What kind of stupid question is that? It's one of those "inspired by true events movies" where her character spends 95% of the movie in a railroad command center. Grow up.
In other words, "no."
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant to the Film: One blackface Gene Wilder from Silver Streak out of five.
Tagline: "1 million tons of steel. 100,000 lives at stake. 100 minutes to impact."
Better Tagline: "One runaway bore."
Brief Synopsis: A veteran engineer and a rookie conductor must stop a runaway train loaded with fuel and toxic chemicals before it wipes out southern Pennsylvania.
Not So Brief Synopsis: Are you serious?
How Many Runaway Train Movies Does This Make? By the standards of rigorous scientific research (which involves me trying to remember movies about runaway trains), I'll say...three. This one, the appropriately titled Runaway Train, and Silver Streak. Oh, and Spider-Man 2 had that scene where Spidey stops the runaway subway car. And who can forget Atomic Train?
On second thought, let us never speak of Atomic Train again.
Put simply, if you've seen the trailer for Unstoppable, you've seen every remotely exciting thing that happens in the movie. The runaway train is menacing indeed, as director Tony Scott gives us plenty of low angle shots of it screaming along the tracks. A "missile the size of the Chrysler Building," as yardmaster Connie Hooper (Dawson) describes it. Yet for all this, the only scenes of destruction come from the train demolishing a horse trailer. And there aren't even any horses in it.
Yes, yes, the movie is based on an actual runaway incident in 2001 that was similarly resolved without violence, but so what? As loud as the film is, and with so many people frantically describing the devastation that will result if the trains cargo of diesel fuel and "molten phenol" plows into populated areas, there's not one moment in the film where you believe any of this will happen. Engineer Frank Barnes (Denzel Washington) has two daughters working at a Hooters(!) in the train's path, and Darcy, the estranged wife of conductor Will Colson (Chris Pine) lives essentially at ground zero of the "Stanton Curve," where the locomotive will jump the tracks if it isn't stopped, but we never for a minute really think any of them are in danger.
Hollywood has never been a stickler for historical accuracy, even when filming allegedly "true" stories (go look for the British navy in U-571). I'm not saying the train had to destroy an entire city, but how about a few more creative attempts to stop it, resulting in gratuitous property damage? Give us some bang for our nine bucks.
Instead, after an elaborate (and idiotic) attempt to drop a guy from a helicopter on the runaway, they end up bringing the thing to a halt when the colorful redneck character with a pickup drives Colson up so he can hop on to the cab. If only there was another pickup truck in the entire state of Pennsylvania, they could have tried that earlier.
The second half of Unstoppable is told mostly through the use of live newscasts, which serves the dual purpose of spoon-feeding the narrative to the audience (because the plot is really hard to follow) and allowing Scott to catch up on Angry Birds.
This is the fourth team-up for Scott and Washington, and the two are clearly comfortable working with each other. In Washington, Tony Scott has found a presence to ground his often spasmodic directing style, and in Scott, Denzel has a director that'll throw him a paycheck movie every couple years and not ask him to do much. Pine was apparently bored waiting for Star Trek 2 to start filming.
Unstoppable is a tedious wreck (not the good kind). It's loud, sure, and lots of people look really anxious (and Pine's foot gets mangled, so that's something), but it has to be the most anti-climactic "thriller" I've seen in ages.
See It/Rent It/Skip It: Skip it and rent Silver Streak instead.
Unstoppable is in theaters today. Good for it.
Get the Theater and Arts Newsletter
Exclusive discounts and announcements to Houston theater shows and art events