Despite the generic feel Tony Scott’s action extravaganza gave off, it turned out much better than I expected. Some of this surprise can be traced back to the fact that Tony Scott seems to have learned a good deal when making Taking of Pelham 123. While the older movie offered too much talking sugared with a good dose of “drama” and therefore “forgetting” the heist plot and some good action, Unstoppable throws all of that out of the window and focuses on the action. We learn some bits here and there about the main characters, but there’s really nothing of substance or anything that’s not been done to death. The only reason for this background information is to give us at least something so the main characters at least are badly painted cardboard cutouts instead of the much worse unpainted cardboard cutouts.
Despite the lack of any depth whatsoever, Unstoppable works so surprisingly well is because we see two guys getting a chance to become heroes – and they take the chance. It resonates well with everyone of us because – come on – we guys all want to be heroes and we all want to be known by the whole world for doing heroic stuff. Unstoppable exploits this dream of us on the screen to the very last second. Both guys are normal and both have their heroic moments which are immediately shown on TV and commented by TV anchormen. Everybody’s glued onto the screen. Family members, co-workers and basically everybody else.
It’s like showing a *male* teenager dream of being a big hero – somebody that matters – on the silver screen.
Moreover, anything and everything Unstoppable does is to give both a chance to shine. Think of the moment when Will gets hurt when he tries to lock both trains. It’s not the arm or his head, but his foot. The only reason for this is to let Frank do some stuff as well because Will can’t move anymore. And at the end, when both could go to the locomotive, Frank orders the driver to “go, go, go”. That’s another hero moment (the safety is more important than me being part of it) for which he gets paid by having his “we did it” pose shown in TV.
The action is okay but it’s nothing exceptional. Perhaps that’s even a good thing. Surprisingly enough, they sometimes screw up a little bit with their action scenes. One very visible example is the failed derailment of the train when the explosions are set off some milliseconds to early. Besides that the other stuff is cinematic but standard. It didn’t really surprise me, though, because you can hardly fail at having an action movie about a train. There’s only one way it can go.
Tony Scott was fully aware of this limitation since he compensates for this lack of freedom of movement of the train by letting the camera do all the movements. There are so many “swooshes”, flies, rolls etc. that I got dizzy sometimes. A little bit less of that would’ve improved the movie tremendously but I guess it was also necessary to hide the fact that many times the train in reality wasn’t even close to the speed implied on screen.
Unstoppable is nothing revolutionary new in the action genre. Everything was done to death before and there’s no drama whatsoever. Nevertheless I was happy to find out that with all this generic stuff Unstoppable entertained me quite well. The movie is fast, is almost free of filler and delivers everything you’d expect from a Scott action flick. So if you have nothing better to do or to watch you can gladly give Unstoppable a chance.