Director Tony Scott seems to have a thing for trains.
His last film The Taking of Pelham 123 was a redo of a 1974 commuter train heist flick. Denzel Washington starred as a hapless dispatcher trying to appease John Travolta’s impatient villain.
Star power didn’t help. The Taking of Pelham 123 was a train wreck critically and at the box office. If at first you don’t succeed, sign your favorite actor and give a train movie a second try.
Unstoppable is based on a “true” event that happened in Pennsylvania in 2001. Washington and Star Trek’s Chris Pine star as an engineer and a conductor in the wrong place at the right time and the only hope to stop a dangerous runaway train.
Sandwiched into the plot for padding is the stereotypical compliment of incompetent corporate executives, a wise, supportive dispatcher, a genius inspector, the lone wolf railroad employee and a couple of family crises to help you get to know the two main characters.
All are cliche but you won’t care. The film belongs to the two stars and a director who — when he gets a chance — knows how to do an action film as well as anyone.
Washington’s effortless acting is so easy to watch. He has a liquidity to his delivery that gives this character — and frankly, every character he plays — unique dimensions. Washington is truth. Hope lies in every line. He is the film’s anchor as well as the fulcrum that balances its human problems on one side and a dangerous situation on the other.
While not quite as charismatic as his co-star, Pine does manage to hold his own with the consummate pro. While you like the characters and how Scott uses them, the real star of the film is a many-toned locomotive run amok in the Quaker State.
The half-a-mile long train takes on a life of its own. All efforts to stop the unstoppable are futile. The train is loaded with nasty, toxic chemicals and down the track, mere miles away is a corner it cannot negotiate. When it crashes thousands will die. Yet, the train steams full-speed ahead and only our heroes stand between it and certain death.
Once Scott gets Unstoppable rolling it stays on track and by the nerve-shattering climax, Unstoppable is.
Mr. Movie rating: 4 stars
Rated PG-13 for mature themes. It opens Friday, Nov. 12 at the Carmike 12 and at the Fairchild Cinemas 12.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.