Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Denzel Washington, Chris Pine, Rosario Dawson, Ethan Suplee, Kevin Dunn, Kevin Corrigan, Kevin Chapman, Lew Temple, T.J. Miller, Jessy Schram, David Warshofsky, Andy Umberger, Elizabeth Mathis, Meagan Tandy, Dylan Bruce
Written by: Mark Bomback
Directed by: Tony Scott
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of action and peril, and some language
Running Time: 98
Date: 10/26/2010
IMDB

Unstoppable (2010)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Right on Track

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Tony Scott's Unstoppable is, in a word, awesome. This is a major surprise, coming after such a stupid looking trailer, and after Scott's four other fairly mediocre movies with star Denzel Washington. (OK. Crimson Tide was pretty terrific, but that was 15 years ago.) Additionally, if one were to take a poll at the beginning of the year to choose between Scott's Unstoppable and his brother Ridley's Robin Hood, the odds would not have been on this runaway train movie. But while Ridley made a turgid, boring, serious summer adventure movie, Tony has made an exciting, lightweight, fast-paced Christmas season movie. And I take back any reservations I had before; there's no question about which is the superior movie.

Washington stars as a veteran train engineer, Frank, who reports to work only to discover that he'll be "babysitting" a young, new conductor, Will (Chris Pine). Both men have troubles off the track: Will's wife has a restraining order against him -- over a misunderstanding -- and he hasn't seen her or his young son in a while. Meanwhile, Frank has been downsized and has only a couple of weeks left on the job. They begin their routine run when they learn about a runaway train. It was initially labeled as a "coaster," but it turns out the throttle was left on and it soon reaches speeds of up to 70 mph. Of course, the perpetually squabbling Frank and Will are the only ones that can catch up to it, attach their engine to the caboose, and gun it in the opposite direction. If they fail to do this, the runaway train will not only race through populated areas, but will eventually hit a hairy turn that will most certainly cause it to derail.

Of course, we must have someone in charge, back at headquarters, whose job is to watch the monitors, make frenzied phone calls and otherwise bark orders at everyone, and Rosario Dawson steps into this role with gusto. There are other character actors on board, but I especially liked Lew Temple as the ponytailed Ned Oldham, who lives for this sort of thing. He races out into battle in his giant pickup truck, country music blaring. He's the kind of rich supporting character that could easily have a movie all to himself.

Scott's style, having come from TV commercials, has always been slick and short-attention-span, but here he somehow manages to marry his style to the material perfectly. His camera swooshes and dives, but since the very marrow of the movie is kinetic, all these moves are happily synced. It may have been that Scott actually knew what he was doing this time, or it may have been a case of enough monkeys on enough typewriters that one of them eventually produced a masterwork.

Fox has released a glorious-looking Blu-Ray that somehow brings this experienced unharmed into the living room. It comes with a Tony Scott commentary track, and an additional track with Scott and writer Mark Bomback. There are several featurettes (all high-def) and trailers.