What is it with director Tony Scott and trains? Just one year after "The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3," he's back on the tracks — but off the rails — in the inferior "Unstoppable."
Based on a true story — and not Soul Asylum lyrics — a 29-car freight train barrels unattended through Pennsylvania at 70 mph, thanks to basic human error. Even worse, a few of those cars are carrying hazardous materials that could flatten a small town. Blame the dopey fat guy (Ethan Suplee), but root for the nearing-retirement engineer (Denzel Washington) and the rookie conductor he's training (Chris Pine) to come to the rescue, after All Else Fails.
"Unstoppable" isn't bad per se, yet it's oddly inert. If you've seen the trailer, you've seen the movie, apart from the end where the train is halted (yes, the title lies; they totally stop the train, as if) and a lot of train-tech talking in between, initially so insider-y, it's off-putting.
Like his runaway subject, Scott is on autopilot with this one. He has two camera moves: the zoom that intentionally goes in and out of focus as it shakes, and the swoop that makes the thing feel like it's on a merry-go-round. It's not so much a style as an imposition.
Washington and Pine both prove agreeable on their own, but there’s little chemistry between them, and the script gives us virtually no time to get to know their characters. We’re asked simply to care about them because of who plays them.
The Blu-ray contains many a feature on its making, for those wishing to know more about its set pieces. No doubt "Unstoppable" was not a technically easy movie to make, but the end result isn't fully worth the crew's might. —Rod Lott