MOVIE: ***1/2 (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: ***1/2 (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Based on a true story of a runaway train in Ohio, “Unstoppable” takes things into a higher gear. After a series of unfortunate mistakes by some problematic rail yard workers, a locomotive is sent out of control at full speed, carrying multiple cars of hazardous material into a populated area. It’s up to two workers on the railroad – one a seasoned veteran and the other a young upstart who is related to the company’s owner – to chase down this train and bring it to a halt.
WHAT I LIKED
As an alarmingly simple film, “Unstoppable” totally works. It’s got a great villain – the runaway train – and it lends itself to some great action sequences. It’s probably one of director Tony Scott’s best movies since “Enemy of the State” more than a decade ago, mainly because of its simplicity. Like the train itself, “Unstoppable” moves a breakneck speed and delivers good, old fashioned fun.
While I’m not completely wild about Tony Scott’s directing style (see below for more on that), this was a good film for him. At the very least, he insisted on practical locations and effects. When a train derails, it’s a real goddamn train falling off the tracks. When something blows up, that’s a real fireball climbing in the sky. It might be overproduced at some points, but the realism is refreshing to see in a cinematic landscape overrun with green screens and digital blood.
Finally, like many films made today, its transfer looks beautiful on Blu-ray. In fact, it’s one of those films that with the proper home theater set-up, it’s a better experience in your own living room. At the very least, you don’t have the rude Saturday night audience gabbing through the picture.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
The biggest problem I had with “Unstoppable” was Tony Scott’s inability to reign himself in. Every single shot is a moving camera shot. That makes sense for the action moments and the scenes in which the train whips by to show its ridiculous speed. However, how many times do we have to watch the camera spin around the lead car during a dialogue scene with stars Denzel Washington and Chris Pine.
Add the forced frenetic movement to the fact that the script piles on the danger to a ludicrous level. Where the train in the true story never went much over 50 mph, the train in the film never goes slower than that. And as if the “missile the size of the Chrysler Building” isn’t a big enough bad guy, we have Kevin Dunn playing a corporate schnook, a pending legal battle for Chris Pine’s character, a train full of school kids on the track and most likely a box of kittens on the tracks at some point.
I heard someone make the point that “Unstoppable” is a much better movie that it has any business being, and that is exactly true. Sure, it’s enjoyable, but really this happens in spite of itself rather than brilliant filmmaking.
The two-disc Blu-ray includes a Digital Copy disc for portable viewing. Blu-ray special features includes a commentary track, plus five featurettes: “The Fastest Track: Unleashing Unstoppable,” “Derailed: Anatomy of a Scene,” “Hanging Off the Train: Stunt Work,” “On the Rails with the Director and Cast” and “Tracking the Story: Unstoppable Script Development.”
As someone from the Buckeye State, I would have loved to see something in-depth about the real-life story that inspired “Unstoppable.” After all, if it’s enough to announce this fact in the advertising, it’s enough to give the story its own feature. But then again, the film itself might have been blown so far out of proportion that the real-life story would have seemed tame in comparison.
WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Mindless action movie fans and people who don’t get motion sickness.