What do you do when a train carrying hazardous materials mistakenly rockets out of the train yard towards a highly populated area where it is sure to derail at its speed? Call in Denzel Washington and Captain Kirk, a.k.a. actor Chris Pine. That is the movie Unstoppable, a story inspired by true events.
We watch as actor Ethan Suplee gets inside train 777 simply to move it, but when he jumps out of the cab to switch tracks, the throttle shifts out of position and the train rockets out of the train yard at 70 mph. Much of the first half of the movie follows the train's progress, rather than our eventual working class heroes, Washington and Pine. Washington plays a veteran train engineer who has been fired to make room for the new, younger guys like Pine, and he only has three weeks left at the railroad company. Director Tony Scott really plays with this dynamic in Pine being the conductor above Washington on the train in which they just happen to be driving towards number 777. This is a very current issue that is being seen right now, and it's nice to see the incompetence of the young upstarts, and the skill and knowledge of the vets, letting us know that these old dogs have still got some bite left in 'em and we shouldn't write 'em off. Of course, our heroes eventually decide to chase down the train and stop it from derailing, and it it here that it is most apparent that this is a movie all about the journey and entertainment, so I wasn't prepared for the emotional heft of the second half of the story.
In the first half, Washington and Pine's screen time is minimal, and very little character development occurs other than what we see from their first meeting, young gun meeting vet, but once they decide to chase down the train, their relationship grows and we actually get an emotional component to this story. Director Tony Scott takes a very minimalist approach to this movie, he only follows train 777 and its progress, and we don't really follow our heroes till they're in the cross-hairs of the train. In some ways I would have liked to have seen more character development in the first 45 minutes between Washington and Pine, but then that would have stopped this unstoppable story and would have lost much of the story's intensity. This is a thrill ride through and through; while it is formulaic, it is also entertaining and emotionally rewarding.
I give Unstoppable an A!