UNSTOPPABLE - A Rail Adrenaline Gusher
UNSTOPPABLE (action thriller)
Cast: Denzel Washington, Chris Pine, Rosario Dawson, Ethan Suplee and Kevin Dunn
Director: Tony Scott
Script: Mark Bomback
Time: 98 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)
PREAMBLE: After The Taking Of Pelham 123, Tony Scott and Denzel Washington are back on track again, playing trains. This time around, there's no villain a'la John Travolta but it is still high voltage tension and excitement, keeping us at the edge of our seat throughout the film.
THE SKINNY: The plot by Mark Bomback is based on the real-life incident involving locomotive CSX8888 that escaped from Stanley Yard in Toledo, Ohio on May 15, 2001. Bomback has changed the make and plate of the train to AWVR777 and shows how a simple act of negligence on the part of an engineer causes the train, pulling tonnes of hazardous material, to start barrelling along the tracks unmanned - heading for the more heavily populated areas of Pennsylvania.
When word gets to the corporate bosses (represented by Kevin Dunn as the VP of operations) and rail control supervisor Connie Hooper (Rosario Dawson), they put in place various options to stop the train and even derail it. Meanwhile, on the other end of the tracks, veteran railroad engineer Frank Barnes (Denzel Washington) and rookie conductor Will Colson (Chris Pine) are just starting out on their route - heading for a collision course with the runaway AWVR777! Soon they find that they have no choice but to implement an incredible plan to slow down the train and stop it.
HITS AND MISSES: Like in the Pelham film, Washington's Frank Barnes does not start off looking like the hero-type who would risk his life to avert a major disaster. And the same goes for Pine's Will Colson. Barnes, who has family issues with his two daughters, is also worried about being laid off from his job. Colson, rumoured to have union connections, also has domestic problems that distract him from doing his job. Director Scott manages to use these personal problems to heighten tension that builds and builds to a fitting climax.
It helps a lot that Washington and Pine work well together, making us root for them all the time. Another well written character is Kevin Corrigan's train inspector who provides some comic relief and facts about railway problems. Dawson and Dunn have minor roles but they play off each other as 'good' and 'bad' guys neatly. Those who know a lot about trains may find some loose ends in the plot but for most of us, Unstoppable has the requisite fuel for a rollercoaster ride. Just like Speed but with yards and yards of wagons tied to it.
THE LOWDOWN: A veritable thrill ride and a rail adrenaline gusher of a flick.