Tony Scott is no stranger to tense action films; nor is he a stranger to Denzel Washington, who seems to be in every single one of his films. While Scott’s affair as of late has fallen into the mindless drivel category, his films are nonetheless visually arresting and aurally engaging. Essentially Unstoppable is a Michael Bay film with a bit more brains packed into it, but really there’s a lot of the usual fast paced cutting and very irksome shaky cam usage, but overall Scott’s films are at the least fun popcorn entertainment. With Unstoppable he proved that, once again, he can make slightly smarter films than Bay; though when it comes to a runaway train with plot points you could jam your finger through you admittedly don’t have much wiggle room in the mindless action category.
Hang on for the ride of your life as Oscar winner Denzel Washington* and Chris Pine (Star Trek) team up for the year’s most electrifying action-thriller. A runaway train, transporting deadly toxic chemicals, is barreling down on Scranton, Pennsylvania and only two men can stop it: a veteran engineer (Washington), and a young conductor (Pine.) Thousands of lives hang in the balance as these ordinary heroes attempt to chase down one million tons of hurtling steel and prevent an epic disaster. Helmed by visionary director Tony Scott (Man On Fire), this story inspired by actual events delivers excitement and suspense that are…UNSTOPPABLE!
Mindless action and violence is really the best way to unwind after a hectic week. Couple it with a 52” TV and a full surround system backed by a subwoofer than never takes a nap and you have a very theater worthy experience in the comfort of your own living room (or home theater room or bedroom…wherever you put it). Unstoppable is every bit the “switch off your mind” movie I hoped it’d be; even when I went to research the real life event that this was based off of I was surprised to find that some of the stupider things that I thought were weak plot points were actually based exactly off what happened in the real event. Still, human stupidity and error isn’t a lot to base a story off of…but in the case of Unstoppable it didn’t matter. There were of course elements in the film that were ramped up just to make things more dramatic, but those were oddly the most believable things about it (although I did question why there would be large fuel depots behind a big curving train track…that just seems like bad planning—and that did turn out to be some extra BS they tossed in but hey…dramatic!).
The film itself kind of centers around Washington and Pine’s characters, but not desperately so; we have plenty of supporting cast and other people to focus on other than our leads as we build up the story. Once we become acquainted with the cast we moved on with the story and saw just what kind of circumstances put this train on its collision course with exploding stuff. I will say that was a very obvious embellishment they tossed in at times; narrowly missing a train full of students, narrowly missing a horse trailer, etc. etc. I half expected a bus of blind nuns getting hit next, but that thankfully never happened. Outside of the train carnage we had the owners of the railroad talking about how to stop it, which was spliced with news footage of the incident and random interviews with citizens or professionals involved with attempting to prevent anymore damage from occurring.
Really there were only a few elements of the film I would’ve changed to make it slightly less irksome. First I would’ve given director Tony Scott some Ritalin as his directing was obnoxious at times. I didn’t mind the fast cuts or any of that as much as I got tired of the circular camera movements of the train cabin with Washington and Pine. I don’t know how many times it occurred, but it was more than once which means it got old fast. Plus the random zooming in during sequences when it didn’t even need it (the initial scene between Rosario Dawson’s character and Kevin Corrigan comes to mind); other than that the directing wasn’t terrible. The other element that bothered me was the parties responsible for the train getting away in the first place; we got an easy scapegoat with two morons who slack off on their job, but in the real incident it was a 35 year veteran with no previous disciplinary actions that caused it. Seeing as we already had the rail road company to hate for their greediness over a lack of concern for public safety, I’m not sure we needed more hate to throw onto another crowd. But that’s what Ethan Suplee’s for—he plays a great moron. The only other irksome moment I had was Lew Temple’s character—the constant screeching tire action as he got in his truck was very strange; exactly what kind of MPG did that truck get that it could follow the train as long as it did without stopping to refuel?
In any case, if you let go of your mind then this film is easily one of the most entertaining popcorn flicks in a long time. I watched it with my mom and she gasped and was (literally) on the edge of her seat for the majority of the film. I’m not sure how she was so into it when I only found it entertaining, but different generations I suppose; runaway trains smashing into crap just seems normal to me. In the end it’s a Recommended film—plenty of fun to be had from this one.
Unstoppable finds a home in a standard two disc Elite Blu-ray case—and that’s it, really. Just the two discs (Blu-ray, Digital Copy) and insert for how to redeem the digital copy. There is, of course, a cardboard slipcover included as well but it’s the norm for Fox titles.
Moving onto the AVC encoded 1080p 2.40:1 transfer we get the usual flawless presentation out of the Blu-ray format you expect. The majority of the film oozes detail out of all of the frames, boasting plenty of detail in the myriad of sequences that range from early morning shots to a very grainy and very blown out sequence filled with tons of debris in the air as the two trains attempt to connect. On top of that we have plenty of detail on character faces and the like. The audio matches the visual presentation with incredible dexterity. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix thuds and booms at every turn, spreading the love around to all of the surrounds and making full use of the LFE output. It’s a very loud film at times and the bombastic nature comes through with the engaging and entertaining surround mix. Everything from dialogue to rushing train sounds (of which there is plenty) comes through with great clarity—just what you’d expect out of a popcorn flick.
• Derailed: Anatomy of a Scene
• Hanging Off the Train: Stunt Work
• On the Rails with the Director and Cast
• The Fastest Track: Unleashing Unstoppable
• Director Commentary Track
• Tracking the Story: Unstoppable Script Development
The extras on this set really aren’t too bad; up until the last two in the list we have about an hours worth of featurettes and such to check out and the final two are pretty entertaining extras. The commentary is with Scott obviously and he covers all the bases; but the “Tracking the Story” bit is with writer Mark Bomback and we get a really engaging blow-by-blow analysis of how the script was made. Very interesting stuff and well worth checking out if you enjoyed the film.
Overall a great little disc for a very entertaining film. Overall a Recommended release.
Unstoppable is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.