"Unstoppable" begins innocently enough when a bumbling railroad employee (Ethan Suplee) jumps out of a half-mile long train to throw a rail switch, only to discover that he hadn't properly applied the brake. Soon this train, with cars packed with a highly explosive chemical, is roaring unmanned down the tracks at speeds approaching 70 miles per hour. When all attempts to derail what one railway employee (Rosario Dawson) describes as "a missile the size of the Chrysler building" come up short, the job is left two a young conductor (Chris Pine) and his veteran engineer (Denzel Washington) to pull off a desperate gambit to save a lot of lives and money.
Loosely based on real life events from a 2001 incident, "Unstoppable" is almost exactly what we've all come to expect from director Tony Scott. His special effects, settings, grainy imagery, and action sequences are awesome; the rest of the movie...well, it's kind of up to you as to whether or not you're going to get on board. Sometimes the concept draws me in ("Deja Vu"), sometimes not so much ("Pelham 123"). He's nowhere near the all-style-no-substance level of Michael Bay but "Unstoppable" brings him a step closer.
Considering that my recent review for "Battle: Los Angeles" I made a case for allowing an action movie to be nothing more than entertainment, I'm not going to turn around and cast stones here for the same thing. There's nothing inherently wrong with "Unstoppable." It is what it is. But that doesn't mean there's just a whole lot that's right, either. Quite frankly, I was bored throughout much of the run time. With no real villain (an unmanned train doesn't really count, does it?) you need compelling heroes or at least hard-hitting, continuous action to keep you from thinking about the fact that there are no compelling heroes. Washington and Pine are both excellent actors but they are both put into limited, supporting roles opposite The Train as the leading man. This simply didn't work for me. Pine, in particular, could have been anyone which leads me to ask, why cast Chris Pine (or any Hollywood rising star) if you're going to give him a marginal back story and minimal screen time with which to work with? The rest of the movie is straight out of the Jerry Bruckheimer handbook which is fine, I guess, but uninspiring. In an effort to find a villain, Scott resorts to beating you across the head with corporate executive Oscar Galvin (Kevin Dunn), whose "all I care about is money!!!" mantra is so threadbare as to become painful. All of this I could have handled, I think, if not for the constant reliance on TV news reports to further the story and, I guess, add "real drama" to the action. It is incessant, over-the-top, and irritating. I swear that if I had to sit through one more "how will these brave men make it out of this terrible situation?!" moment, I would have put my foot through the TV. An AWFUL finishing touch that, for me, tainted the entire production. "Unstoppable" plays out with great predictability and very little to get excited about.
As a quick side note, I'd like to take a moment to talk directly to Denzel Washington because I know he's reading. Denzel, you're awesome. Seriously, one of the best actors to ever grace the screen. But your movie choices of late have been lackluster. Not bad, just safe and boring. Please, I beg you, take some chances. Go after roles that will actually allow you to showcase your incredible abilities, to stretch yourself. Look at what's happened to Robert De Niro and learn from his mistakes! No more Tony Scott movies. I'm just looking out for you.