Tuesday, November 30, 2010


While visiting my father in Las Vegas, we watched Unstoppable.

Unstoppable starring Denzel Washington, Chris Pine & Rosario Dawson; directed by Tony Scott; (2010) - Official Website

This film has been well reviewed. It opened #2 at the box office.

Tony Scott is one of my favorite directors. His brother Ridley directed The Blade Runner, my long-time favorite film. I can't say any of Tony's films are of that stature. More consistently, Tony Scott's film entertain me and his cinematic craftmanship are frequently on display. Among my favorite Tony Scott films are Crimson Tide (my favorite Tony Scott film), The Last Boy Scout, Top Gun and True Romance.

In Unstoppable, Scott largely dispenses with character development. Chris Pine's character seems to have some issues related to his controlling nature and jealousy. Denzel's character seems to have strained relationship with his daugthers. These are never really explored. Most likely, they are shown to give the characters some flaws to counter the selfless act they engage in. If you are not familiar with the film, a train engineer (Denzel) and a conductor (Pine), chase down a ruanway train in their locomotive. Why do they do it? Their lives have some bumps but they seem to have a lot to live for. Ultimately, their integrity and professionalism combined with concern for their families drive them to their actions.

Denzel is Denzel. Like Jack Nicholson or Morgan Freeman, Denzel brings a similar quality to all his roles. I didn't fully realize that I saw a Saturday Night Live sketch a few weeks ago where Jay Pharoah impersonated him.

Denzel is a movie star and you are naturally drawn to him when his is on screen. Chris Pine was serviceable in his role. A few of the supporting actors delivered great performances. Rosario Dawson is building an impressive résumé and is solid as the yardmaster training to solve the problem before Denzel saves the day.

Ethan Suplee as the incomptent railroad hostler that sets the disaster into motion is brilliant as the blissfully ignorant Dewey. Suplee has a consistenly witless look on his face even after the train gets away from him. Lew Temple (who was the shot-order cook in Waitress) makes the most of role as the repetitive redneck who preaches "precision" but ultimately plays a key role.

Scott keeps the action going without dragging things like a mourning widower or husband with a restraining order into the plot. He handles the technical jargon of railroading with ease. What's a rip track? Scott doesn't bother to explain it but I had to look it up. RIP track - repair in place track. We also see Denzel apply the independent brake and astutely observe the knuckle is open on the last car.

So overall, Unstoppable was an exciting and entertaining action film from skilled director and featuring a capable cast.

I should note that the film is "inspired by true events." In 2001, CSX #8888 ("Crazy Eights") left a trainyard in a manner similar to that depicted in the film. The freight train never reached the sppeeds stated in Unstoppable. It topped out at 47 MPH rather than 70 MPH as shown in the film. The incident also took place between Toledo and Columbus, OH and not near Scranton, PA. It seems strange that they would change the location in the film as it didn't add anything to the plot. Much is made of the "Scranton Curve" in the film but the curve shown is actually in Bellaire, OH.

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