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Movie Review: Unstoppable – Unbelievable

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Denzel Washington delivers another pitch-perfect performance as Frank in Unstoppable. Denzel was on Good Morning America last week promoting his new film, and he said he did not mind being upstaged by a train known as Triple 7 because he got paid more. This film’s box office take will make everyone involved very happy; it’s a real crowd pleaser. Denzel also told GMA that he chose his co-star for the film—Chris Pine.  Move over Brad Pitt—Pine is a young, lean, mean acting machine.

This film is about two men sharing a really bad day at work; something they did not see coming. Like ebony and ivory on a keyboard: one black, one white; one young, one middle age; one new on the job, and the other given notice of forced early retirement. They are alike in that neither bucks at the chance of saving a town while risking their lives.

Unstoppable is based on real events in southern Pennsylvania when a runaway train barrels through the countryside without either conductor or air brakes. This film is also about the chemistry between a new conductor Will, his trainer Frank, and the physics of a runaway train under power reaching speeds in excess of 70 mph and weighing millions of pounds.

One can only marvel at 777’s power as it streaks across the silver screen. The executives charged with halting this runaway train must have been asleep during some physics classes because they vastly underestimate the momentum of the train and waste precious time and resources with an ugly scheme to derail it. Time is of the essence as Triple 7 is carrying explosive cargo and heading into a hairpin turn that runs through a metropolitan area. The executives don’t get it, but the men who move trains on a daily basis understand the force they are dealing with.  

The day in Pennsylvania begins innocently enough when one of the train engineers fails to engage the air brake and leaves the train in gear. Connie (Rosario Dawson) gets the news first and is left in the control room to pick up the pieces. She tells everyone on the rails that a train is cruising without a conductor, and when it is understood that the train is really “under power” it’s a meltdown moment.

Connie thinks fast and sends an experienced trouble shooter to follow alongside the train on the access road in his huge red pickup truck and blonde ponytail. He along with Frank and Will try to save the day by stopping the unstoppable.

These two for the railroad go rogue by disobeying the top brass and the operations manager in favor of their own plan. They take what they believe is the best shot at stopping Triple 7, which entails catching up to it, by driving in reverse, butting up the rear of 777, and then pulling it in reverse. Frank’s 2606 engine is sturdy but aging, and you get a sense something will go wrong. When it does both men must improvise with just seconds to save themselves and the town.

En route to their rendezvous with triple 7 the two men share stories about their lives. Frank’s wife has died of cancer and he is raising two teen age daughters who wait tables at Hooters, while his conductor is on the verge of separation or worse a divorce. Frank encourages him to just keep calling his wife.

I loved this action thriller from director Tony Scott who has teamed up with Washington before in Man on Fire and The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3.  Scott’s action brand rises and weaves the water like a surfer riding the biggest wave in Hawaii, and in this film he does it with genuine humor, pathos and a few surprises from real people—some who do their jobs, some who don’t, and some who are forced into unbelievable heroism simply because there is no other choice.

 

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