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Unstoppable

Movie directed by Tony Scott

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Forget "Snakes on a Plane" - It's "No Brakes on a Train!"

  • Mar 7, 2011
Rating:
-2
Tony Scott has watched too much MTV in his life. There's a massively over-used camera shot which I'm sure he created but you see it everywhere now - the video is sped up, slow-motioned, given a contrast flash, and then sped up again. It was innovative for the first 100 times but has become his editing trick of choice for everything from the "establishing scene shot" to "we need another 3 seconds of film here and we already paid the music guys".

Unstoppable is a really pedestrian film. It's bad in all departments except that Denzel helps drag it above the quality level of an episode of Burn Notice. It must have been plotted over a case of beer, since it doesn't really make any sense if you're sober, but might have been quite fun to storyboard after being a little wasted on a domestic-but-light canned beverage.

The basic premise is that a train carrying some toxic chemicals has been sent on its driverless merry way because the overweight union guy decided to get out of the hotseat after pressing the "Go" button. The obstacles and problems are all the sorts of things you'd get at Amateur Night at the Screenwriting Convention for Writers Who Don't Write Good:
  • There is a train full of schoolchildren coming the other way!
  • The head boss corporate guy is trying to cover it up and/or cut corners!
  • There's a nice little town in the way that looks like Main Street 50 years ago and it's going to get wiped!
  • There's one car full of kittens! And not the boring ones - all the cool ones from the YouTube videos we all love.
Watch out for that glacier!

In a nutshell, the core problem with the movie - apart from the frankly ludicrous level of incompetence of everyone and some batshit-crazy plans that pass as plot - is that there's no nemesis. Spielberg once again has his figure on the Staples button here showing how an adverse situation must always boil down to one person (or dinosaur) that the audience can identify as "the problem". Here we have a runaway train and nothing else - it's a "force of nature" story without an antagonist such as:
  • The military, which wants to nuke a nice little town to stop the Evil Railed One.
  • Some malicious driver (check how they did this in the Pelham 123 film).
  • A freakin' shark who's tired of the ocean and wants to start a subway. Who knows. 
The train, by the way, could have been stopped if they'd just reattempted the boarding by car stunt. Just because it went wrong once doesn't mean that Denzel climbing over 30 cars at 70 mph is any easier.

"No villains on the train!"

Unstoppable is a half-formed movie idea: "It's about a runaway train that needs to be stopped." It needed a little more tiger blood. "It's about a runaway train that...
  • ... has been hijacked by ghosts intent on destroying the townspeople who murdered them...
  • ... will destroy incriminating evidence from a Presidential-level scandal that exposes war crimes...
  • ...could open a worm hole to another universe and cause radiated otters to take over the nation's rivers...
... and needs to be stopped, presumably." Anything really, just throw me a friggin' Act Two here.

"No Brains on the Train!"

One of the other side effects caused by the toxic train is that it seems to cause IQ levels to fall off a cliff when it passes by. The sheer amount of staggering dumbness could have been averted if most of the cast would have just not been there at all. Put another way, it just isn't that hard to stop the train and I'm sure if any actual train drivers had been consulted in the research, this would have been painfully obvious. Unless train drivers really do just start train and then get off for no apparent reason.

In summary, Tony Scott needs to step up his game. Either that or I have a screenplay to sell him about a helicopter that's spinning itself without a pilot over a small town in Nebraska (I threw in some pro-Union stuff too just to sweeten the deal). The helicopter has a carton of fireworks on board and a stow-away mouse with a smoking problem too. And if he doesn't like that, I have another script about a Segway where the driver fell off and is currently lapping the ring-road around DC.

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March 20, 2011
I loved "Snakes on a Plane." Geez...I want to watch that again now. I liked this one...it wasn't great, just ok. :) Nice review!
March 20, 2011
Thanks! I think we're still a few years away from Pterodactyls On a Hovercraft but I'm sure if we wait long enough, Tony Scott will crank it out. Especially if Denzel looks interested.
March 21, 2011
LOL! Nice!
 
March 16, 2011
Hah, great title. I WAS considering seeing this, but there just seemed to be such little substance for an interesting story. And Chris Pine isn't enough eye candy to motivate me to watch this in spite of it either.
March 16, 2011
Thanks! I'm looking forward to Denzel doing something good... he's been paying the rent in these acting-free roles for too long.
 
March 11, 2011
Great review but man I love Burn Notice, Bruce Campbell is the man.
March 11, 2011
Thanks! It's fair to say this movie would have been improved by the presence of Bruce Campbell.
 
March 08, 2011
I can tolerate no affront to Burn Notice! It does after all have Bruce Campbell...no matter how paunchy he may be.
March 08, 2011
You're right, you're right. Apologies to Bruce!
March 08, 2011
Accepted on his behalf.
 
March 07, 2011
LOL! Pretty entertaining write up as always!I saw this after I saw that dreck called "Skyline" and I was just so relieved that it proved a much more coherent movie than that alien invasion garbage. were you trying to do a Samuel L. Jackson impersonation? LOL!
March 07, 2011
Thanks! Yes, there have been some real shockers recently - I should at least be thankful I made it through this one. I should try and work on a Samuel L impersonation :-)
 
1
More Unstoppable (2010 movie) reviews
review by . November 13, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Tony Scott Delivers A Total Popcorn Thrill Ride!
Tony Scott and Denzel Washington together have given us some hits and misses throughout their careers. Well, didn’t the two create another train movie called “Pelham 1 2 3” very recently? I guess that means the two are in familiar ground. Tony Scott’s train movie “Unstoppable” has been inspired by true events that occurred in 2001 called the “Crazy Eights” unmanned train incident that happened in Finlay, Ohio. Yes, the film is pretty simple and quite …
review by . November 13, 2010
Normally, I can barely tolerate Tony Scott's frantic, even frenzied, directing style. He's all about fast cuts, swooping angles and cursory character development. He's often a bit like Michael Bay, with at least with a better visual sense. His films often indicate changes in time or mood through a change in color saturation. You CANNOT see one of his films and not constantly be reminded that you're watching a movie. Films like MAN ON FIRE and TAKING OF PELHAM 1 2 3 give me a headache.    UNSTOPP …
review by . August 31, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
This film was so simple yet it was entertaining and tense and best of all it seemed to stress family, loyalty, honor, all without bad language and violence that seem to accompany most thrillers these days. A train engineer accidently leaves a train in gear with nobody in the cab. That train gets away from him and accidently engages itself in a fast gear.    When Rosario Dawson (the train company's traffic coordinator) gets called, she realizes that she has a problem on her hands …
review by . April 04, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
*** out of ****     It looks like Tony Scott is getting creative. Here, the brother of the even-more-well-known Ridley Scott has made a film that is all fun, all craft, and lastly, all thrills. Out of all the thrillers to be released in 2010 ("Piranha 3D", "Salt", to name a few), "Unstoppable" is one of the best. It's a no-hold thrill-ride that knows where it's going, and has a handle on what it's doing. It's a film directed by Tony Scott, for crying out loud. That is, perhaps, …
review by . November 17, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Anti-climax!
I had high hopes as far as Denzel Washington is concerned. However, this is not that movie.            Unstoppable is action packed, high speed and I may have even enjoyed it thoroughly. BUT, and that's a big But, it lacks that special touch, the wow factor and to be fair to everyone (me inclusive) concerned, it's anti-climax! Still, not forgetting that this is a movie inspired by a true event, dramatic portrayal of a pending disaster is not in the …
review by . November 28, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
There aren't a great deal of thrillers out there that I can say keep me on the edge of my seat or that make me wonder just how things will turn out.  So for Tony Scott's Unstoppable to do so was quite a surprise to me.  As I watched I actually found myself genuinely drawn into the situation at hand.  Unstoppable isn't brainy but it isn't exactly stupid either.  It's a well made film in spite of some of its smaller flaws.      Unstoppable …
Quick Tip by . June 12, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Caption
I finally got to see this one a couple weeks ago; I really liked the action in it, though I thought the characters were rather boring; even Denzel Washington.  I sat on the edge of my seat throughout much of it, yet when it was over this flick was completely "forgettable".
review by . December 17, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
      Unstoppable is about a veteran engineer (Frank/Denzel Washington) and a young conductor (Will/Chris Pine) who race against time to prevent a railroad catastrophe. They have to stop a moving train at full speed that carries a cargo full of chemical products, so they engage in a pursuit to catch the train from the back and accelerate in the opposite direction in order for the train to slow down. This is a story based on real facts so we already know the process and the result …
review by . November 15, 2010
Tis the season for Oscar bait, and with that comes added depth to the movies coming out this season. Unstoppable doesn't contain a single extra layer. You know exactly what you're getting. A train you can't stop dangerous chemicals on the tracks, headed towards a small blue collar town, with a train full of children coming in the opposite direction. We're one horse and a sweet mustache away from a Dudley-do-right cartoon. Cue the woman tied to the tracks.      …
review by . November 20, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Tony Scott's "Unstoppable" is a nail biting, heart pounding, relentlessly exciting film. It takes most of the reliable hallmarks of the action picture - death defying stunts, crashes, explosions - and strips them to the bare essentials. There's no posturing, no big muscles and machine guns, no pompous dialogue, no padding of any kind. There's only a raw, primal adrenaline rush. The result is a film so taut and gripping that you're liable to lose the feeling in your hands …
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James Beswick ()
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Wiki

Unstoppable is a 2010 American action thriller film directed by Tony Scott, written by Mark Bomback and starring Denzel Washington and Chris Pine. The film tells the story of a runaway train, and the two men (Washington and Pine) who attempt to stop it. The film was released in the United States and Canada on November 12, 2010.

Plot
After panning across some idling diesel locomotives under the opening credits, the film begins with scenes at two rail yards in different regions of Pennsylvania run by the Allegheny and West Virginia Railroad (AWVR). In the Fuller yard in northern Pennsylvania, children arrive for a school field trip on rail safety. Meanwhile, in the southern Pennsylvania town of Stanton, Will Colson (Chris Pine) gets up for work, stopping to surreptitiously watch his wife put their son on the school bus. He calls her but she refuses to even answer.

Arriving at work, Colson, a conductor, gets his orders for the day and learns he will be working with engineer Frank Barnes (Denzel Washington), with whom he has never worked before. He goes to a group of older workers, with whom he has some barbed words over their age differences, and finds Barnes among them. While he goes to punch in, the other older workers complain about being displaced by Colson, who they say got his job through family connections in the union.

Meanwhile, in Fuller, the yardmaster yells at a pair of hostlers who have been standing idle near a train to get it moved so the schoolchildren's ...
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Details

Director: Tony Scott
Genre: Thriller
Release Date: Nov. 12, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 98 minutes
First to Review
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