' ' Cinema Romantico: Unstoppable

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


A runaway train is shooting down the rails at hyperactive speeds in Pennsylvania when at a railroad crossing, which the police have essentially shut down meaning there are many stopped cars and gawking onlookers, an older gent in a large truck comes over the hill and down the road is fiddling with the radio and isn't paying attention and doesn't see the commotion ahead and when he finally does -  ye gods!!! - it's too late!!! And he hits the brakes and swerves and slams right into a long trailer and the long trailer goes skidding onto the railroad tracks at the precise moment - ye gods!!! - the runaway train turns the corner. Ah, this is no mere a trailer, this is a horse trailer! And - ye gods!!! - there are horses aboard!!! And so the owners of the trailer hurry to evacuate the horses as the train bears down and this allows for several dramatic shots of lovely horses with flowing manes kicking with the runaway train in the background and then - just in the nick of time!!! - they get the horses outta the way and the train slams the trailer off the rails and keeps on going. Whew.

This is to say that although Tony Scott's 2010 action flick "Unstoppable" is based on the 2001 true story of a runaway train in Ohio that roared for 70 miles with two tank cars containing thousands of gallons of the hazardous material molten phenol acid, that is just not enough meat on the bone for Mr. Scott.

So what if the runaway train is on a collision course with a Pennsylvania city, threatening to blow it sky high?

And what if the one of the men aboard the train that goes after the runaway train in an effort to latch onto it and slow it down is Frank Barnes (Denzel Washington) and what if Frank has a seriously estranged relation with his two younger daughters and what if the two younger daughters work at Hooters and what if during Frank's attempt to chase down the runaway train we keep cutting back to shots of all the girls at Hooters watching and cheering him on (literally saying at one point "Go, Frank!") as if it were the Big Game?

And what if the other guy aboard the train with Frank is conductor Will Colson (Chris Pine) and what if his comely wife recently stopped talking to him because he thought she was having an affair with a cop and so he threatens the cop with a gun even though it turns out (surprise!) he wasn't having an affair with his wife but now the cop has taken out a restraining order and Will's wife won't talk to him and won't let him see his son and so when......eeeeeeeeh, I mean, if Will saves the say, what if there are wondrously dramatic shots of the reunited family embracing?

And what if during one scene where Frank and the dubious Vice President of the Train Company (Kevin Dunne) - he'll talk about things like, say, devaluing stock for the company - and the dispatcher back at base......wait, we need a woman for that part. A really attractive woman. Hmmmmm. How 'bout Rosario Dawson? She could maintain our interest even though she spends the whole movie talking into a headset, right? Good. Write it down. Anyway, what if during one scene where Frank and Will and the Vice President and the dispatcher back at base all have a three way conference call we shoot it with endless, swooping pans, right to left, left to right, right to left, left to right, right to left, left to right? (Argh!!! Stop with the pans, Tony! For the love of the movie gods, can't you just hold one shot for three seconds?! Two seconds?! ONE SECOND?! Please?!)

And, this is just a hunch, what if Kevin Corrigan played the part of the Safety Inspector of the Federal Railroad Administration?

Ah, now we've got our movie. Scott takes that real life idea and turns the speakers up to 11 while, stunningly, refraining from turning the whole thing into a traditional Tony Scott Film Stock Free For All and shaking the camera so much one in three patrons has to excuse him or herself to hurl. I don't want to call it classical but this is definitely solid filmmaking, an enjoyable, tightly paced B movie. For two hours you're diverted and entertained without being bored. Which I guess in some strange fashion makes this film a really minor triumph.


Wretched Genius said...

This is one of my guiltiest pleasure movies. It's sooooo stupid, yet holds a viewer's attention in a vice the entire time.

While I would normally make fun of Scott's hyperactive cutting, I think it actually works well for this movie. If he held any of the exterior shots for longer than 5/8th of a second, the viewer might actually notice the train is only going 20mph on a closed course.

Anonymous said...

I didn't really love this one like so many other's did, but it does have its moments that kept me entertained and interested. I just wanted Tony Scott to stop shaking the damn camera so much. Jeezus! Good review Nick.

Daryl said...

Denzel as a wizened old hat, charting his own course, showing the ropes to his new partner and going rogue when necessary. I especially like the part when he sets up the partner to be shot but the partner gets away.

Nick Prigge said...

Brad, that's a fair point about the constant cuts. Yet, like Dan, I'm still sick of it. And I think even if this movie had featured a Japanese bullet train going top speed he will would have employed the hyperactive cutting.

And Daryl, I think you're confusing "Unstoppable" with "Hand In The Cookie Jar." Or was it Virtuous Revenge"?

Daryl said...

Sorry, no. It was "Glory."

Castor said...

Yea, pretty decent flick for what it is. The real life story is nothing like that though. Let's just say this was over-dramatized to the power 1000. Tony Scott is still a hack though lol

Anonymous said...

Definitely a B movie. I have two memories of this film. 1) I yelled "shut up" to a couple of noisy teens in a theater after they wouldn't stop giggling, running in and out, and texting throughout the entire film. 2) The lines about not wanting to work in a "daycare center" or a "retirement home." Lol.

Also, enjoy SNL's trailer, if only for Jay Pharaoh's hilarious Denzel: http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/unstoppable-trailer/1259996