Armed men hijack a New York City subway train, holding the passengers hostage in return for a ransom, and turning an ordinary day's work for dispatcher Walter Garber into a face-off with the mastermind behind the crime.
A runaway train carrying a cargo of toxic chemicals puts an engineer and his conductor in a race against time. They're chasing the runaway train in a separate locomotive and need to bring it under control before it derails on a curve and causes a toxic spill that will decimate a town. Written by
You're Waiting for a Train (That's Going to Kill You, If You're Not Careful)
Let's start this review off in a proper manner for this movie, and by that I mean let's make it extremely blunt: Unstoppable is frenetic mess. Sometimes that isn't really all that bad in an action movie. It's worked before in Salt and Cloverfield, to name a few, but Unstoppable simply cannot pull it off. I started watching it with the expectation that I was going to have fun and I ended with a headache. Tony Scott makes the movie tense, that is for sure, but the way he does it is annoying. Though there are occasional instances when Unstoppable is nearly as nail-bitingly suspenseful as its writers hoped, most of the time, it falls flat on its face and (dare I say it?) becomes a train wreck.
Unstoppable claims to be inspired by true events. It's not a lie; it actually happened once in Ohio, but the stakes were not as high and nobody was hurt. Like any tabloid magazine, Unstoppable is inevitably sensationalized. It has full right to do this (it's an action movie after all), but not to this extent. The film starts with two stories that don't end up intersecting until halfway through the movie. A young conductor (Chris Pine) and a wise older engineer (Denzel Washington) are paired together to transport twenty train cars of zinc. But their day gets completely derailed (I had to!) when a train goes rogue and starts operating on its own when a worker is an idiot. Meanwhile, back at the station, a train operator (Rosario Dawson) gets angry and yells a lot while somehow acting rationally. The two trains roar closer to each other and the suspense mounts.
The film's biggest offense isn't its outlandish story, but rather it's Scott's obnoxious direction. From around ten minutes in, the camera does not stop moving. Yes, I understand that this device is meant to build suspense, but it just ended up frustrating me. What happened to the good old days when it was honorable to use slow movements to create anxiety? Clearly, they're long gone.
Not only this, but the editing is equally staccato to match this. As I said before, it's not always so horrible to have this style in an action movie, but sometimes it's nice to get an idea of what I'm supposed to be looking at. Editing shouldn't be used to bewilder the viewer unless that style is somehow needed in the movie.
What isn't a mess is the acting. Dawson, Pine, and Washington all play their parts with just the right amount of believability. The characters are not too tangible, but they are not too fake either. Most of the time, the story is also entertaining. Although a bit overlong, Unstoppable's simple plot is enough to entertain the audience...were it not for Tony Scott. I can frankly say that I have never seen a movie with a more bizarre villain than a rogue train. Yep, even weirder than Christine.
As it turns out, what Unstoppable comes down to is style. And that was Scott's biggest mistake. Instead of making a slower train-on-the-run like his previous and better film The Taking of Pelham 123, Scott has directed this one like a music video to very little success. You very well may enjoy it more than I did if you can get past the unnecessary intensity of the first third. Still, Unstoppable is a mess. There's simply no other way to say it.
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