Reel Matt

This blog started as my movie marathon — watching a movie a day for a whole year — and has continued as a place for me to write reviews about movies, TV, and various other items.

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Unstoppable

Film #183

THE PLOT

With an unmanned, half-mile-long freight train barreling toward a city, a veteran engineer and a young conductor race against the clock to prevent a catastrophe.

Year 1, Day 181

BEFORE: Continuing with the Denzel Washington theme, today we have Unstoppable directed by the late Tony Scott. I’m more optimistic for this film as I enjoyed Scott’s previous film The Taking of Pelham 123, which also starred Washington. Unstoppable also stars Chris Pine who has done a great job in the 2009 Star Trek by J.J. Abrams and This Means War earlier this year.

AFTER: Tony Scott delivers yet again with a heart-pounding, nail-biting, and action-packed film sure to entertain. Unstoppable is just that - unstoppable. The film starts out kind of slow-and-steady but it keeps picking up momentum and sustains the level of interest despite the whole film being about one simple thing: stopping an unmanned train.

I could not help but think about Scott’s previous film, The Taking of Pelham 123 (the 2009 remake) which has many similarities. Denzel Washington plays the old but knowledgeable employee for a train company and has to use these wits to save lives. In Unstoppable, instead of being the NYC Subway system, it is the AVWR train system and instead of the subway being overrun and controlled by terrorists who put people’s lives in danger, it’s human error and accident which sends the train off by itself leaving thousands in harms way.

With Unstoppable I was literally on the edge of my seat for the entirety of the film. There was not one lull in the action and it was wall-to-wall mayhem as Frank Barnes (Washington), Will Colson (Chris Pine), and the other employees helping them try to stop the train. Just thinking about it you wouldn’t think that 98 minutes of two men trying to stop a train would be entertaining. It must lose it’s appeal or entertainment value at some point, right? No matter how thrilling this idea may sound, you can’t sustain the energy forever. But Tony Scott finds some way to do just that. I think it has to do with that momentum that I mentioned earlier. While you see the #777 train within the first five minutes, you aren’t immediately thrown into chaos. Scott works his way up, easing the viewer into what will eventually be an out-of-control and seemingly impossible scenario for Barnes and Colson to solve. Things are still hectic in the beginning as you jump between about four or five different stories, but the information keeps coming slow enough so you can digest it, but quick enough to not lose your attention. This makes for one of the most exciting and exhilarating action films.

That isn’t to say there isn’t anything else in the film. There are the occasional exposition moments where the train isn’t front and center but these characters and their lives are. While I think these moments do hold the film together and provide a necessary connection for the viewer to give them some purpose or reasoning behind the motives of Barnes and Colson, the backstories are the worst part of the film. They seem superfluous and tacked on as if the filmmakers realized that they need something more than out-of-control train. Again, without these moments the film would probably fall flat, but there’s just so much promise that I can see in the backstories that I’m confused and annoyed as to why they didn’t spend just a little more time developing them.

Unstoppable is one of the most intense films you will ever see. It really is wall-to-wall action with a few of the characters backstories sprinkled in. This exposition both helps the film by helping maintain its momentum and trajectory, but at the same time derails the film from the heart-pounding danger Barnes and Colson are subjected to. Still, make time to watch this film. It may not be the best story-wise but it definitely delivers in entertainment.

RATING: 4 out of 5