Adam R declares UNSTOPPABLE actually runs out of steam fairly quickly

rating: 2

Unstoppable certainly is the best way to describe the collaborative partnership between Denzel Washington and Tony Scott. However, unlike the pairing of De Niro and Scorsese or the more contemporary pairing of Scorsese and DiCaprio, the works of Scott and Washington become less appealing with each passing film. While Crimson Tide was a tense and taught 90€™s nautical thriller and Man on Fire was a violent, gritty journey into the mind of a dark but ultimately ethical assassin, Déjà Vu was convoluted, science €˜faction€™ drudgery and the less said about The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 remake the better. Their latest effort, Unstoppable, may just be their worst to date. It is a fast paced, high impact but woefully predictable and conventional action thriller that fails to present you with defined, distinct characters. The result is a film that sees you cheering on the villain, which in this case, is runaway freight train on a collision course with the town of Stanton, Pennsylvania. Chris Pine plays the newbie train conductor facing his first day on the job while battling a restraining order placed on him by his wife, keeping him away from her and his son. He is paired with veteran engineer and all round crotchety old bastard Denzel Washington. While tensions flare between the mismatched pair, who go about a standard delivery job, idiot Ethan Suplee loses control of a half-mile long freight and abandons train €“ the biggest no-no in the book - sending it hurtling out of control at break neck speed. Enter Rosario Dawson €“ implausibly cast as the head controller of the Pennsylvania freight train line €“ to take control of getting the train stopped. With the help of train genius Kevin Corrigan €“ who just happens to be knocking around on this particular day €“ they try to reason with capitalist douche bag Kevin Dunn €“ playing the other role in his repertoire when not being the €˜funny father€™ ala Transformers and Transformers 2 and 3, and 4€ Dawson pleads for the train to be derailed and muscles Corrigan into backing her up with evidence that derailing the train is the only way to stop it. Corrigan does so, blurting out scientific mumbo jumbo €“ he€™s like Richard Dreyfuss in Jaws, if Dreyfuss had just turned up on set, had a script thrust at him and then been shown how not to act €“ but this all falls on deaf ears because Dunn says this solution is not €˜cost effective€™. So it falls to Denzel and Chris to save the day. They go on a potentially deadly mission to connect their train to the runaway Freight in an attempt to stop or at least slow it down before it reaches Stanton and kills thousands if not millions, or for shock value, BILLIONS of people! The film€™s key flaw is a failure to make you care about the characters or the town that the train is headed towards. It is not enough to simply present us with people and say they€™re going to die if this doesn€™t happen; we must care about them and want them to live and thus achieve their goals. We€™re never allowed to properly engage with Washington and Pine, because every time they share a scene the camera is moving so erratically, quickly cutting back and forth, with more attention given to the train, that we can never really tell what is going on in their eyes or on their faces. It€™s all about their dialogue, which although at times could qualify as cool, comic banter, it feels very by-the-book. And when they eventually do rise to the call of action, their scenes are forever cut up by news flashes, with reporters telling us exactly what we know Pine and Washington are doing or planning to do, or cutting over to Dawson, Corrigan and co €“ looking completely out of their depth €“ in their control room, which rather than add to the tension actually only proves to suck us out of the real action. It would have been like the third act of jaws if we kept cutting away from the boat back to the town€™s people and media reporters. Further to this, Pine and Washinton€™s characters are dull. When Pine is explaining the story of why his wife has placed a restraining order against him, Denzel gets so bored he actually takes a phone call €“ one of fifty five million throughout the film, it was almost as bad as Michael Mann€™s Miami Vice - half way through, before allowing him to resume his overly elaborate, uninteresting and un-shocking tale. It€™s really sad to see Tony Scott continue to direct such dross. Although Scott has said in the past he has no interest in directing €˜Oscar€™ films, he can surely do better than this. After all this is the man who directed True Romance, which is arguably the best Tarantino movie that Tarantino never directed and shows that he is not just about explosions and fast paced, adrenaline fuelled action set pieces. He is a director that understands character and plot, but for some reason they just haven€™t been coming through in his recent works. Another question is why he chose to produce this €˜true story€™ when he has a number of infinitely more interesting titles on his slate. It begs the question whether he in in a €˜one for you, one for me€™ arrangement with Fox. So do yourself a favour and avoid Unstoppable, which sadly, unlike its title suggests, quickly runs out of steam. Unstoppable opens in the U.K. on Wednesday.
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Frustratingly argumentative writer, eater, reader and fanatical about film ‘n’ food and all things fundamentally flawed. I have been a member of the WhatCulture family since it was known as Obsessed with Film way back in the bygone year of 2010. I review films, festivals, launch events, award ceremonies and conduct interviews with members of the ‘biz’. Follow me @FilmnFoodFan In 2011 I launched the restaurant and food criticism section. I now review restaurants alongside film and the greatest rarity – the food ‘n’ film crossover. Let your imaginations run wild as you mull on what that might look like!