Tuesday, April 5, 2011


Unstoppable was a movie that I went into with both good and bad feelings. On the bad side, I looked at it and a trailer of it and thought to myself, "Damn. This looks like a stereotypical action movie with trains." On the good side, I saw that Denzel Washington was in it and thought to myself, "That badass never disappoints." Confronted with this conflicted mix of revulsion and attraction, I did what any brave soul would do; I shut my eyes and jumped headfirst into the yawning abyss of potentially shitty films.

I Will Carry Denzel's Babies... Somehow

My impression of all that is good in the world held true in the form of Denzel Washington. Like in pretty much every role this brilliant actor takes, Denzel turns his character into a proud yet humble train operator who takes control of a crisis in order to do the right thing. The movie can can be simply described as thus: shit happens; unmanned train goes out of control. But despite the simple premise, Denzel Washington and that-one-dude-from-Star-Trek (Chris Pine) play roles that make you get really into the action and genuinely concerned when they get into serious trouble.

Well, at least Denzel does. As for Chris Pine, he didn't seem to be as interesting to me. Fact of the matter is that he spends most of the movie moping and whining about like a little ass, as if throwing a temper tantrum over how driving trains isn't nearly as cool as commanding a space cruiser (again, Star Trek). Yet, despite this, Denzel somehow manages to prod him out of it, and the two end up sharing some genuine chemistry together instead of being two guys who simply have to get along for plot purposes.

Trains are Dangerous

I was also pleasantly surprised by how this movie transcended my fears of it being "just some action movie with trains." While at its most basic level that is still what it is, the film overcomes that through some pretty good acting and excellent directing that shows us just how insane and terrifying it would be if an unmanned train randomly took off. Trains are enormous, and it is easy to forget that as childhood-implanted images of Thomas the Tank cascade through your head. As a consequence, I actually was on the edge of my seat for a good deal of the movie. After all, how do you stop a giant train?

There are a number of attempts and, as this is based on a true story, it was very intriguing to see that this is actually how people would react if a train went out of control. Many attempts are made, and it is interesting to see how they develop, from a man lowered onto the train via helicopter to intentional derailing of the monstrous locomotive. Some ideas are good, some awful, but I feel it accurately reflects what would occur if something like this actually happened (which it apparently did).


So, in the end, despite my misgivings, I found this movie to be pretty entertaining and interesting. Definitely worth seeing. But it is hard to say that there is much more to this movie outside of a bunch of guys stopping a train. Nothing about it is Oscar-worthy-of-mention, and the characters themselves are obviously constructed so they have enough depth to bring on empathy but not much beyond that. But, sometimes, that isn't a failing. Just like how Titanic showed us the step-by-step process of how a giant ship hitting an iceberg can go titanically wrong (hehe), Unstoppable shows us the interesting procedure of how people would deal with an out-of-control train. And, in this case, that's good enough for me.

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