True to its name, director Tony Scott’s "Unstoppable" is a fast-paced action thriller that takes a little while to pick up speed, but once moving, rolls along furiously barely allowing you to catch your breath or ponder the silliness of the situation.
The film is loosely based on a real incident that took place in Ohio in 2001, and tells the daring story of two railway workers who raced against the clock to stop an unmanned speeding train loaded with toxic chemicals from crashing into a densely populated town. Denzel Washington stars as a veteran railway engineer and Chris Pine as a newbie conductor who get off on the wrong foot the morning they are paired together on duty. But when the incompetence of two lazy railway employees sends a train down the line without a conductor or brakes, our heroes set off on a seemingly impossible rescue mission that has the nation watching and praying.
Scott uses minimal computer effects, and concentrates instead on raising the pressure every few minutes by creating highly implausible situations that are nevertheless watchable because both actors bring a degree of integrity to their performance. It helps also that Scott uses his camera fearlessly, swooping up and down the hurtling train and throwing you at the center of the action.
Yet I must confess I thought Scott’s previous train-thriller, last year’s "The Taking of Pelham 123" was a more satisfying film in terms of nail-biting tension. In my opinion, the thrill of watching your hero work out ways to outsmart the villain is far more enjoyable than the physical dare-devilry involved in stopping a wayward train. Having said that, "Unstoppable" still works because it’s an unpretentious formulaic film that delivers exactly what it promises.
I’m going with three out of five for Tony Scott’s "Unstoppable". If you don’t want to tax your grey cells, here’s a simple enough entertainer that’s fun while it lasts, but hard to remember after you’ve left your seat.