6A - Monday, November 15, 2010
The Michigan Daily - michigandailyxonr
Denzel chugs along in 'Unstoppable'
Fast pacing and good
chemistry keep train
thriller from derailing
Daily Arts Writer
Check up on the details of "Unstoppa-
ble" and you'll see a strange trend: in two
consecutive years, director Tony Scott has
released two train-based Denzel Wash-
ington thrillers, the
first being "The Tak-
ing of Pelham1 2 3" last
Both films place
Washington in the role At Quality16
of a cynical old-timer and Rave
wronged by "the Man" 20th Century Fox
and the only one with
the power to save the day - a personal-
ity that, through films like "Inside Man"
and "American Gangster," he has come
to inherit quite comfortably. In these
two recent films, Scott has placed him in
contrast with another leading male; in
"Pelham" it was John Travolta's turn as a
hijacking terrorist and in "Unstoppable"
it's Chris Pine ("Star Trek") as a proud
young train operator with family issues
and a heart of gold.
Dual star power is always a lucra-
tive way to generate mass appeal, and
"Unstoppable" cashes in on it by offering
valuable interplay between two actors
who have a somewhat unlikely but still train yard leader and Ethan Suplee (TV's
largely successful chemistry. Washing- "My Name is Earl") as the mistake-prone
ton plays Frank, assigned to engineer on operator and the catalytic screw-up, fits
a cargo train, while Pine is Will, the new- the film well but still offers little in the
comer tagging along; the obvious young- way of developed, dynamic characters.
old setup never completely pays off, but By the momentary nature of the film, the
it's the heart of what minor conflicts the script sacrifices character development to
two undergo. keep the story moving, and even its main
The men become aspiring heroes when, characters suffer from a lack of back-
by an operator's mistake, a train leaves a ground.
southern Pennsylvania station unmanned
at full power. The train threatens to derail
in a heavily populated area if it maintains
its speed; our heroes decide to chase the
train down and attempt to bring it under
Once the train is off and running, the
film moves at breakneck pace with lively
editing and handheld camera adding to
the chaos. Tony Scott, like older brother
Ridley, has auteurist visual style. That
said, he forgoes the crowded, flashy direc-
tion of his earlier films "Domino" and
"Man on Fire" for a more grounded but
still distinctive tone.
"Unstoppable" is stripped down and
presented almost entirely in real-time.
The runaway train is a formidable vil-
lain, and its mysterious, almost mysti-
cal quality is one of the film's strongest
points. Carrying large amounts of toxic
chemicals, it is never fully explained
how serious its damage would be, but the
realistic in-the-moment presentation is
The ensemble cast, which includes
Rosario Dawson ("Seven Pounds") as the "Wheeeeeeeee
We learn early on that Will and his
wife aren't speaking; later we learn that
it came as a result of a misunderstanding
and altercation involving another man.
We never learn more about what drives
him. We don't know why he is the way he
The script is slow to start - perhaps
intentionally - and it weighs down Scott's
direction until the action picks up. The act
structure is off-balance, and despite the
intense production, the climax doesn't
Narratively, "Unstoppable" strives for
realism by presenting its crisis from every
different angle and centering itself on
working-class-hero protagonists. How-
ever, by never tying off its loose ends and
organizing its plot, it falls short of leaving
a lasting effect.
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RELEASE DATE- Monday, November 15, 2010
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