Published: November 10, 2010
Directed by Tony Scott
Opens Nov. 12
Watching Tony Scott’s Unstoppable makes you empathize with the 1896 audience that supposedly fled their seats upon seeing a train barreling down the screen at them. There’s something profoundly terrifying about the image of a speeding train, especially one, as in Unstoppable, that’s unmanned and carrying combustible chemicals. Scott has been down this path before: His 2009 remake of the subway thriller The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 also starred Denzel Washington as a train-rescuing hero.
Given the hackneyed theme, Unstoppable is surprisingly effective. Ben Seresin’s cinematography creates a palpable sense of place in the rain-soaked rail yards of rural Pennsylvania, where a freight train is accidentally left unmanned and is now heading toward disaster. Washington plays a veteran engineer facing forced retirement who teams up with a cocky young rookie (Chris Pine) (of course). They put aside their bickering to undertake a superhuman act of heroism. Both men get a perfunctory backstory, but the focus is almost entirely on the runaway train, a striking thing to watch and an appropriate metaphor for our reckless times. Action impresario Scott gets no love as a director, but he knows this much: What thrilled moviegoers more than a century ago still works today.