Unstoppable may not bring anything new to the action-thriller genre and indeed Tony Scott’s direction does tend to be over-the-top but it’s still very entertaining thanks in large part to the cast headlined by Denzel Washington, proving once again the charm he brings to any production, and Chris Pine whose own star is on the rise.
Genre(s): Action, Suspense/Thriller
Fox | PG13 – 98 min. – $39.99 | February 15, 2011
Directed by: Tony Scott
Writer(s): Mark Bomback (written by)
Cast: Denzel Washington, Chris Pine, Rosario Dawson
Theatrical Release Date: November 12, 2010
Features: Commentary, Featurettes, Live Lookup, BD-Live, Digital Copy
Number of Discs: 2
Audio: English (DTS-HD MA 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Portuguese (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 2.40
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, Portuguese, Cantonese, Chinese
THE MOVIE – 3.5/5
Tony Scott is a bit of a conundrum to me. The man can produce and direct an immersive thriller one year (Man on Fire) and the next, using the same techniques and style, completely fail (Domino). His last two films, Déjà vu and The Taking of Pelham 123, never quite rose to the level of Man on Fire, but for what they were, were entertaining if not forgettable thrillers. His latest is Unstoppable which reunites Scott with star Denzel Washington for their fifth feature together dating back to 1995’s Crimson Tide.
Frank (DENZEL WASHINGTON) is a train engineer who is being forced into early retirement goes out on the tracks with young Will (CHRIS PIKE) who is related to the rail company’s owners and is just one of many unionized workers coming in to replace the older gents. The two get off to a rocky start as Will is preoccupied with his troubles at home since he and his wife are separated while Frank is somewhat on the outs with one of his two daughters as he forgot about her birthday.
Meanwhile, in a series of unfortunate events that seem to only happen in Hollywood movies, a running train left unattended as a yard hand (ETHAN SUPLEE) got out to manually switch the track since he was unable to do so in the control room, goes out of control. At first it’s a funny situation as others thought it merely was a coaster meaning it’d eventually coast to a stop, but instead it becomes a runaway train under its own power as the dumb ass didn’t set the controls correctly. And wouldn’t you know it, this train hauling 20+ cars behind it also happens to have 8 freight cars of very flammable and dangerous chemicals as well!
We all know that the studio didn’t pay Denzel Washington and Chris Pine to just sit around and move trains around so Frank and Will get involved when, while hauling a load of cars behind them, are told to get off the main track as the runaway, 777, is headed right towards them. They barely manage to escape and after removing the extra carts they decide to take it upon themselves – with the support of manager Connie Hooper (ROSARIO DAWSON) – to stop this train. This was after a few attempts to do the same went horribly awry. Despite the demands of company VP douchebag Oscar Galvin (KEVIN DUNN), the two proceed trying anything to stop the train before it hits Stanton and a curve which will derail train and cause massive destruction and loss of life.
Unstoppable isn’t a movie that particularly breaks new ground in the thriller genre. It’s a film that provides just enough character development for us, the viewer, to actually care about their outcomes but not too much where it bogs down the film a whole lot either. However, the biggest reason for why the film succeeds in spite of paint-by-numbers script is thanks in large part to Denzel Washington who is one of the few actors that can come onto a production and raise its value a few notches where a lesser actor would only highlight its flaws.
While Washington is his normal charming self providing some fun comic relief intermixed with the suspense and drama, one cannot forget about Chris Pine who is developing into a well round actor. Obviously he’s probably better known for reinventing James T. Kirk in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek reboot/retelling, he shows that despite the fact his character is fairly simple – he’s a guy separated from his wife and kid – he’s still able to make the character likable.
Where I think the movie might falter a little is with, of all things, Tony Scott’s direction. I loved some of the unique styles he implemented in Man on Fire and even Déjà vu with using different fonts, shot stills, oversaturation, etc. but with Unstoppable, I wonder if he got a few pointers from Michael Bay because when the action and plot goes into full gear, I don’t think there was a single overheard shot of either train (the runaway or our hero train) that didn’t have at least one helicopter in it, not to mention 3 or 4 hovering and weaving over and under one another. Then you add in his decision for circular motions, be it either inside the train or above, that it almost becomes laughable. There was a point during the third act where it almost felt like I was on a rollercoaster and was tempted to raise my arms and scream.
Unstoppable may not break new ground in the action/suspense-thriller genres – and at times is nonsensical and downright laughable with the camera direction – it is still a fun and harmless way to spend 95-minutes. Denzel Washington and Chris Pine don’t deliver note-worthy performances or anything but for the material they acquit themselves nicely.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 3.5/5
This release comes with a semi-glossy slip cover.
Audio Commentary – Director Tony Scott provides a simple but informative commentary track covering various topics including the screenplay, his different direction techniques and other things that are also covered under the featurettes as well.
Tracking the Story: Unstoppable Script Development – This track, with absolute horrid sound quality similar to Domino, features Tony Scott with Mark Bomback. This is more of a candid conversation about the making of Unstoppable. It may be an OK track but the sound quality really makes it hard to listen to as it sounds like it was recorded in a room where the audio bounces off the walls or something.
The Fastest Track: Unleashing Unstoppable (29:41; HD) – This is a behind-the-scenes featurette takes a look at how the movie was made using as much on-location shooting as possible without going to green screen. This features interviews with members of the cast (Denzel Washington, Chris Pine and Rosario Dawson) and crew (Tony Scott, Mark Bomback, et al) and delves through the process from the original idea, stunt work to the use of Scott’s favorite toy: the helicopters. ** Blu-ray Exclusive **
Derailed: Anatomy of a Scene (10:01; HD) – This takes a closer look at a specific scene – the train derailment – and how it was shot. It’s pretty interesting to watch the specifics on how it was and just how much work it took to do. ** Blu-ray Exclusive **
Hanging Off the Train: Stunt Work (14:25; HD) – The stunts are the focus this time around showing how the stars did some of their own stunts for the safer shots while the stunt men are used for the more dangerous ones. ** Blu-ray Exclusive **
On the Rails with the Director and Cast (13:25; HD) is a candid conversation with director Tony Scott and cast members Denzel Washington, Chris Pine and Rosario Dawson as they talk about different topics. ** Blu-ray Exclusive **
Live Extras include Fox’s Live Lookup where you can look at the cast/crew filmographies via IMDb while watching the movie and Feeling the Heat: Unstoppable Pyrotechnics featurette available through BD-Live. ** Blu-ray Exclusives **
There is also the theatrical trailer (2:26; HD), a digital copy (** Blu-ray Exclusive **) and previews for other Fox titles including Love & Other Drugs, Street Kings 2: Motor City and 127 Hours.
VIDEO – 4.5/5
Unstoppable is makes its way onto Blu-ray in its original 2.40 widescreen aspect ratio and 1080p high-definition. Simply put, this video transfer looks fantastic in HD with a fine amount of grain and noise that provides for a well rounded, well detailed picture throughout. Everything from the facial close-ups to background objects has a fair amount of detail while the colors are also well balanced without looking oversaturated. Having seen plenty of Tony Scott’s previous works, this looks to be on par with those.
AUDIO – 5/5
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is pretty bombastic as one should expect from any Scott brother film let alone one by Tony Scott. There’s plenty of explosions, out of control locomotives and some shouting to give your surround system a run for its money. But aside from that, the dialogue levels are good and you can hear every word being said.
OVERALL – 3.75/5
Overall, Unstoppable may not bring anything new to the action-thriller genre and indeed Tony Scott’s direction does tend to be over-the-top but it’s still very entertaining thanks in large part to the cast headlined by Denzel Washing, proving once again the charm he brings to any production, and Chris Pine whose own star is on the rise.