FILM RATING: 2.5 stars
Unstoppable (2010) is director Tony Scott’s latest attempt at creating another engaging, smart, techie, action/thriller/drama movie like Top Gun (1986), Days Of Thunder (1990), Crimson Tide (1995), Enemy of the State (1998), and Deja Vu (2006). Unfortunately, Scott doesn’t quite get there with this one. While Unstoppable isn’t quite unwatchable, it’s probably not all that re-watchable. Once you’ve seen it, there’s little to go back for. Even at 98 minutes, the movie dragged on for me. Scott has all of the technical cinematic ingredients, as he always seems to have in his movies. But once again, after failed attempts with The Taking Of Pelham 1-2-3 (2009) and Spy Game (2001), Scott just didn’t have a really good story and script to work from. At least that’s my excuse for him. I know he can put together incredible movies like the five I listed above, all of which are favorites of mine. But like every great movie, it all starts with the script, and screenwriter Mark Bomback just didn’t come through here. It’s not a bad story. It’s even written well in terms of dialogue. But there’s just no emotional core to the characters. They’re very one-dimensional…and even the great Denzel Washington can’t get his character Frank into my psyche or my heart like so many of his other great characters.
Chris Pine and Rosario Dawson give solid performances and round out a solid cast. But they seem to have nothing really to act for. A runaway train with no one at the helm just doesn’t make for much of an engaging plot here. I kept wishing Dennis Hopper would show up and give this Speed (1994) wannabe a bad guy that I could hate. I kept thinking that Unstoppable was basically a remake of Speed with a train instead of a bus. And haven’t we had enough Speed remakes already? And to be honest, didn’t Scott just work with Denzel Washington and trains in The Taking Of Pelham 1-2-3…the year before? Hopefully Scott finds his way back to a good script soon because I definitely love his style of filmmaking when paired with good material.
On the positive side, Unstoppable looks and sounds absolutely spectacular on blu-ray, which is the format I saw it in this week. As always, Scott brings on board a great director of photography (Ben Seresin) who provides simply awesome cinematography. When it comes to shooting planes, trains, and automobiles…and submarines, motorcycles, helicopters and any other possible moving piece of machinery, director Tony Scott is about as good as it gets. I’m sure the coordination necessary to bring all of these various moving metal objects together into one camera frame requires a whole team of assistant directors, producers, and various crew. But it’s those scenes, when all of these various moving metal objects are actually moving around with each other, that kept me involved in the movie. The multiple helicopters, trains, and automobiles are just incredible to see together.
No one seems to bring all of the technical action and stunts together in the editing room like Scott. Of course credit should be given to film editors Robert Duffy and Chris Lebenzon, who did a good job keeping the film moving along with their final cut. But Scott’s filmmaking style is definitely stamped on the cut as well. Reinforcing the incredible action in this film is top notch sound design and editing by sound supervisor Mark P. Stoeckinger, with his accompanying 28 other sound department crew members. Unstoppable was nominated for the Best Sound Editing Oscar last year, and you can definitely hear why when watching this film! Rounding out the technical praise for Unstoppable, is good production design by Chris Seagers and his enormous team. Every little detail shines through in the sets, locations and with all of the trains, cars, and helicopters. The textures, colors, and materials used throughout the film give it a modern feel that works nicely on film.
I was a bit torn between giving Unstoppable 3 stars or 2.5 stars, but I settled on 2.5 because I think the likelihood of me watching this movie again anytime soon is really slim. There’s just nothing in the story to go back to. No emotion to feel again. No thoughts to think again. No riddles to unravel. And no character tension to try and release. Unstoppable is a first class production, as director Tony Scott is well known for. But in the annals of filmdom, Unstoppable didn’t make much of a mark. It just rolled on through at 70 mph, leaving the tracks empty for the next film to come along and replace it.
Check out details on the film and its excellent Blu-ray presentation at Blu-ray.com.