Scott and his leads craft an Unstoppable action ride
Tony Scottâs new film, Unstoppable, is a movie worthy of success at a level equal to the filmâs title, as it is, without a doubt, one of the directorâs finest works.
Scottâs film pits train engineer Frank Barnes (Denzel Washington) and train conductor Will Colson (Chris Pine) in a dramatic race against time to stop a runaway locomotive loaded with toxic chemicals. As their dispatcher, Connie Hooper (Rosario Dawson), puts it, âa missile the size of the Chrysler buildingâ is headed toward a town in Pennsylvania.
It is ultimately up to Barnes and Colson to stop the barreling behemoth as attempts from other characters in the movie â such as the blubbering corporate boss played by Kevin Dunn â are fruitless.
Scottâs setting tactfully captures the gritty aura of the film. Stanton, Pa., and the surrounding cities are portrayed as rough, blue-collar environments with looming feelings of dread. In a way, Scottâs setting is as frightening as the gray clouds that hover over the cities. The characters know that something terrible is just around the corner.
The daunting setup, along with the monstrous locomotives in the train yards, successfully laces the movie with Â danger and raw power. Because of their brute force as represented by Scott, the trains become supporting characters in their own way.
Scott also manages to make the exposition-heavy setup work. Colson is dealing with a failed marriage, and his wife has filed a restraining order against him. He is troubled by the fact that he cannot see his wife or his son, and the thought of his family is constantly in the back of his mind â at times it is his main struggle in the film, arguably more so than the rogue train.
Barnes has a sub-story as well, although slightly less dour, and Scott deftly switches between the charactersâ different storylines without any major distractions throughout the film. In fact, itâs done so well that he leaves the viewer wanting more when the ending credits start to roll.
Scott is able to successfully maintain the intensity of the train predicament throughout the filmâs 98 minutes by using the most simple of action setups. With each scene, thereâs a new danger and new characters to care about. Scott evokes all the empathetic hot spots imaginable by creating scenarios involving endangered children, animals, a local war hero and a railroad veteran.
Scott is less successful when it comes to adding humor into the film, most notably with the characters played by Lew Temple, Ethan Suplee and T.J. Miller.
Ned Oldman (Temple) seems like a redneck maverick that feels too stereotypical when coupled with more grounded characters, and Dewey and Gilleece (Suplee and Miller) are the imbecilic train yard employees that get the filmâs unfortunate plot rolling â in a rather absurd way.
Oldman has a haughty attitude as the âlead welder,â and although he has some witty one-liners at the end of the movie, he more or less sticks out like a sore thumb for the entirety of the film.
When Oldman is introduced on camera, a country song plays in the background, making it seem for a brief second like the viewer was watching a country music video rather than an action movie about unmanned locomotives lurching mercilessly toward devastation.
Suplee could not have played his character better in the film; his acting is commendable, but the combination of Suplee and Miller on camera is hard to take seriously, considering they are both better known for their roles in comedies.
Dewey and Gilleece also drastically take away from the seriousness at hand as they attempt to quip while entire cities are in danger â all because of them.
For cynical viewers, Scott does a poor job of capturing reality. He seems more concerned with style and adrenaline than with realism and though this is the same man who directed Top Gun, at times this action-movie styling grows a bit unbelievable.
It seems preposterous that Barnes would be able to run across the tops of freight cars traveling at speeds of 80-plus mph. It also seems slightly unbelievable that amid all the train drama, the body count is relatively low.
But in a way, the embellishments add even more splendor to the weight of the heroic feats of Banres and Colson.
The locomotive disaster is described as potentially being the biggest tragedy in the area, yet, at the end of the film, the chase to stop the train feels extremely underwhelming.
The film was purportedly inspired by true events; it is up to the viewer to choose to believe this or think the film errs more on the side of elaboration.
Still, at the end, Scottâs film is 98 minutes of undying intensity that will leave action-lovers satisfied.