Movie Review: “Unstoppable”

10 Dec

It sounds like the most simple movie premise imaginable: two men have to stop a runaway train before it crashes. But somehow, sometimes the simplest plots work the best.

Director Tony Scott’s new action film, “Unstoppable,” is a high-speed, pulse-pounding, unapologetic adventure movie. It doesn’t pretend to be the next “Inception” or “Gladiator” – it’s pure escapism at its very best. Even better, it’s almost completely inoffensive (except for a little language) making it an excellent choice for virtually all audiences.

As the film opens, engineer Frank Barnes (Denzel Washington) – facing mandatory early retirement – is paired with new conductor Will Colson (Chris Pine, known for his recent turn as James Kirk in 2009’s “Star Trek”). Unbeknownst to them, however, disaster may be imminent. A series of bad decisions (mostly on the part of one thick-skulled individual) sends an unmanned freight train – on full power – headed down the tracks without brakes. To make matters worse, not only is the train headed straight for a passenger train full of children, but it’s also loaded with highly combustible chemicals.

The railroad company attempts to stop the runaway train (by dropping paratroopers from helicopters onto the roof of the train) but efforts are unsuccessful. Time is also running out – the train is headed for an “elevated curve” that must be taken at a slow speed. If the runaway train derails on the elevated curve. it will crash into a fuel depot and destroy the surrounding town. It soon becomes clear that Frank and Will are the only men who stand a chance of stopping the train.

It’s an intense, frenetically paced movie that never loses momentum (literally). The acting is strong, the effects are top-notch, and the story zips along at a breakneck pace. From a worldview standpoint, there is really nothing to analyze here. This is a movie about men trying to stave off a man-made crisis, and there aren’t any “deep” undercurrents begging for analysis. As a result, this is going to end up being a fairly short review. The only truly objectionable content is found in the form of eight or nine profanities uttered during the most stressful sequences. There’s plenty of peril, but that’s to be expected in a movie like this.

Should you see it? It’s not necessarily an absolute must-see film right now (if you have the choice, opt for “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1”), but it’s a rousing action movie that will entertain almost anyone. Even if you choose not to see it in the theater, definitely watch it on DVD at some point – preferably on a big TV with full surround sound.

A full-throttle action film that manages to be “family-friendly” without losing its intensity.

Normalized Score: 5.8

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Posted by on December 10, 2010 in Thrillers


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