Review – Unstoppable (12a) [2010]

Star Rating: 4/5

A film about a runaway freight train was never going to be a classic. Like The Taking of Pelham 123, Speed and Gone in Sixty Seconds, to mention three of countless such films, one could only hope that this film would be entertaining and nerve-racking. It is both!

When I first saw the trailer for Unstoppable, it reminded me of an episode from Thomas The Tank Engine, entitled The Runaway. As a kid, seeing Thomas steaming away without his driver and fireman made my heart pound every time. Except, this film is not about a little tank engine with two coaches running down a harmless train line. Unstoppable is based on true events about an unmanned monster freight-train, half a mile long, travelling at such a speed it can demolish anything in its wake. Worse, it is coupled to wagons containing highly inflammable/explosive materials, going through populated areas and heading straight towards a curve at Stanton, a densely populated town in southern Pennsylvania. Worse still, a group of school-children heading for a field trip, are on the same line as the runaway train heading for a collision!

Will and Frank on a siding trying to work out how they are going to stop the train

If the situation is not enough to put one on edge; the director, Tony Scott (Top Gun, The Taking of Pelham 123, Stoker), constantly changes scenes back and forth during conversations between officials, managers and the main characters to induce further panic into the audience. The fast-beats, the crescendos and the sudden silences ensure that viewers will never take their eyes of the screen.

Unlike the plot and the music, the acting is not as dramatic. Indeed, one thing that should be noted is how un-melodramatic and realistic the acting is. Frank (Denzel Washington – American Gangster, The Inside Man) and Will (Chris Pine – Star Trek I & II, This Means War), as normal railway drivers, do not have the most challenging of roles. Yet, they play them well without reverting to cringe-worthy clichés. Despite understanding the gravity of the situation, and reacting to it in the best way they feel they can; Frank and Will spare some time for banter and heart-to-heart conversations. After-all, what else can they do in their train’s cabin whilst they hurry along the line to try and catch the monster freight-train?

Nothing gets in the way of the monster runaway train.

The realism of their roles is similarly reflected by the behaviour of their manager, Connie (Rosario Dawson – Sin City, Trance), who wants to save as many lives as possible; and her boss, Galvin (Kevin Dunn – Transformers), who has several factors to take into account, such as commercial, financial, damage to infrastructure and, lastly, human life. Connie and Galvin are constantly on the phone to one another (as well as to Frank), trying to solve the problem as to how to stop the train. Whilst on the phone, they speak in a relatively cordial manner; off the phone, the number of expletives they shout about one another is both realistic and funny. Indeed, one could imagine this occurring in an office in an under-pressure situation.

The realistic elements to the film, the music and the plot make for easy and entertaining viewing. By no means is Unstoppable a five-star film; but one’s adrenaline will be doing overtime long before the end of the movie.

PG’s Tips

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