Back in the old days, kids used to be fascinated with trains. Whether the train came in the form of a plastic choo choo or a fancy electric train, kids could spend hours enjoying their locomotives. Perhaps director Tony Scott had that same train fascination growing up because his new found streak of movies focus on trains. His last film (The Taking of Pelham 123) focused on a subway train, now comes Unstoppable.
This rambling, rumbling film, inspired by real events, places train engineer (Denzel Washington) and a young conductor (Chris Pine) in a race to stop an unmanned, toxin carrying runaway train and prevent disaster in a heavily populated area.
Like a powerful locomotive, Tony Scott knows how to create action. He can blend chases, crashes and explosions together like nobody’s business. Too bad he doesn’t have the same fascination with creating even marginally interesting or believable characters. Too say that the plotlines and characters in Unstoppable could have used some of the coal or diesel energy (or whatever the trained ran on) would be understating things.
The film tosses together so many stereotypical characters and situations as to be ridiculous. First we have a black experienced engineer and white rookie conductor who don’t get along, toss in a CEO with more trains than brains, add in an attractive hard nosed station agent (Rosario Dawson) and then poor train must deal with all of these humans.
Writer Mark Bomback and Scott think that by providing snippets of the two engineers’ fractured family lives that the audience will rally around the two heroes come crunch time. Rescue people and a train from impending doom and you get your wife back or your daughters back and everything fits neatly together like 2-piece jigsaw puzzle. Never mind creating some real emotion for the two heroes, if it is easier to show daughters or a wife jumping up and down with delight. Good thing that someone had some excitement.
On the surface, Unstoppable appears to be sorry combination of suspenseful Runaway Train and the comedic Silver Streak. These other train movies, although not perfect, at least knew what direction to head in.
British-born director Tony Scott was the brother of director Ridley Scott and worked closely with him in their production company for film and television, both having made their names in the advertising business before moving onto glossy features for cinema. He shocked Hollywood by committing suicide by jumping from a bridge in Los Angeles for reasons that were never disclosed.