Tony Scott’s (Top Gun, Man on Fire) newest thriller follows the path of two regular guys in the railroad industry who are thrust into a deadly situation. The film, loosely based on true events, follows an unmanned train hurtling through Pennsylvania with no signs of stopping. Also, the train is carrying hazardous chemicals and is heading towards a densely populated area. This scenario sets the stage for the rest of the film to unravel as many people try, and fail, to stop the speeding train car.
Denzel Washington reunites with Tony Scott to play Frank Barnes, an aging engineer with a troubled relationship with his to daughters. Chris Pine (Star Trek) plays Will Colson, a young conductor right out of training. He has issues of his own, including a restraining order from his wife. The two very different characters start their day by boarding a train and heading out into the countryside. Almost simultaneously, another rail worker accidentally forgets to apply the brakes and leaps from his car to switch tracks. The train slowly builds up speed as it races away.
As the train builds up speed, the film picks up momentum and begins to race against time until the climatic moment. Complications arise, such as a train car full of school children on the same track. Various ideas arise, ranging from the military’s plan to shoot at the brakes, to the intentional derailing of the train. The CEO of the train company says that derailing the train should be the last alternative as it could potentially cripple share prices and induce tremendous costs. However, it could cost lives if nothing is done. This creates more tension between the various train employees employers.
All the while, Frank and Will slowly move their train out of the way of the speeding car. They than turn around and attempt to catch up with the runaway train to pull it in reverse in a desperate, last-minute attempt to save the day. The plot works relatively well, but the film doesn’t stand out at all. The techniques used by both the actors and the cameramen are solid, but they feel overused and at times played out. Washington and Pine are still great at being the normal guys turned heroes, and they lead the action with distinction. Tony Scott does a good job of leading the project, showing his knowledge in the field of action movies. Unfortunately, Unstoppable just doesn’t compare with some of his earlier films and it feels a little too much like a generic action movie.