Directed by: Tony Scott
Starring: Denzel Washington, Chris Pine, Rosaria Dawson
As Jethro Tull put it many years ago – “The train it won’t stop rolling, no way to slow down.” That’s the plot. There’s a bit of personal baggage thrown in, providing just enough depth to keep the characters from disappearing when they turn to the side, but the movies about the train, and stopping it, and helicopters, and explosions.
As you would imagine a locomotive has several redundant safety systems to ensure that runaway trains are not an every day occurrence. So the first bit of work you have to take care of if you’re telling the story about a runaway train is to explain how those safety systems are circumvented or fail. I actually hope that Tony Scott and the screenwriter Mark Bomback took a little artistic license in how easy this could happen. A couple of bad decisions and you have a half mile long train full of highly flammable toxic chemicals barreling into populated areas. There is a brief window of opportunity to force the train to derail in a section of farmland, but the corporate heads decide this solution is too costly, so they attempt a much more dangerous and flamboyant solution which of course fails, after all the movie is not half over yet. Meanwhile our heroes, veteran engineer Frank Barnes, Denzel Washington and rookie conductor Will Colson, Chris Pine, are coming up on the same track in the opposite direction. After a near miss they give chase to the runaway train planning to latch on to it from behind and slow the train before it reaches a curve it has no hope of making in the middle of Staunton, Pennsylvania home to three quarters of a million souls.
Filling up time between explosions and crashes and impressive helicopter footage of trains zooming by we learn about Franks daughters who are working their way through college waiting tables at Hooters and that Will has restraining order keeping him from seeing his wife and son. Filling in the corners and supporting our heroes is Rosario Dawson and Kevin Corrigan keeping them informed from the railroad control room. Kevin Dunn is the corporate stooge threatening to fire them and Lew Temple plays Ned Oldham, Lead Welder, racing across the country in his red Ford crew cab dually chasing the train. All the actors do a great job with what they have, but the story just never provides any real tension. All the plot points are telegraphed miles away and there is never any doubt that there is going to be a happy ending. While there is no true tension there is plenty of excitement. For a modern action movie there is minimal CG work and it shows. There are guys jumping from car to car on the trains, cars and trucks crashing, trains derailing, multiple helicopters flitting here and there, things blowing up and it all looks great as does Pennsylvania. Director of Photography Ben Seresin captures some beautiful footage.
Sometimes you get a movie where the whole exceeds the sum of the parts. This is not one of those movies, despite everything that this movie does well it just doesn’t all add up. It’s a decent enough movie but with all of these pieces, Pine, Denzel, Scott, great cinematography, outstanding stunt work, this should be a better movie.
The film is presented in widescreen format and the 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer looks fantastic. As you would expect from a recently released movie the transfer is made from a pristine print. The blacks are solid and not washed out. The subdued late autumnal Pennsylvania palette makes the yellow and reds on the trains really pop but they never look oversaturated or unnatural. Flesh tones are likewise natural. Details are crisp and sharp with no aliasing or moiré. Matter of fact I never noticed any digital artifacts.
The audio is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, French 5.1 Dolby Digital and Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital. There are subtitles in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Cantonese and Traditional Chinese. The audio sounds great. The trains and helicopters sound like they are going to come out of the screen. Even with all of the rumbling from the heavy machinery, the dialog is always clear and understandable, except of course when it’s not supposed to be clear and understandable. While the soundtrack is a bit bombastic it always meshes into the rest of audio perfectly.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The Blu-ray disc comes in a standard Blu-ray case, with a cardboard slip cover, there is also a digital copy disc included. In addition to the audio commentary by Tony Scott there is an additional audio track consisting of recorded script reviews from screen writer Mark Bomback and Tony Scott. There are several featurettes; The Fastest Track: Unleashing Unstoppable detailing the making of the movie, Derailed: Anatomy of a Scene covering the setup and filming of a train derailing, Hanging Off the Train: Stunt Work which gives you an inside look at the stunt work for the movie, On the Rails with the Director and Cast a round table discussion between Tony Scott, Denzel Washington, Chris Pine and Rosario Dawson.
Overall (Not an Average) 7/10
The movie is flat but I don’t think I would have been as disappointed if this wasn’t a Tony Scott, Denzel Washington movie. It does have its moments. Lew Temple almost makes the movie worth watching all by him self. Matter of fact I would buy a ticket for Unstoppable II: Ned Oldham, Lead Welder AWVR right now.
The Movie 5/10
The Video 9/10
The Audio 9/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 7/10
Overall (Not an Average) 7/10