If you’re a girl like me who has a crush on a new actor every week, then you may at some point have had a thing for Chris Pine. (Or you could just, you know, have eyes. Either way.) Assuming you don’t want to watch your copy of Star Trek for the third time in three days, and also assuming you aren’t willing to watch either The Princess Diaries 2 or Just My Luck with Lindsay Lohan, what will you try out to satisfy your cravings for those pretty blue eyes?
This is a bunch of silly fun.
A runaway train carrying around a crazy amount of dangerous, highly explosive material is hurtling through Pennsylvania. Thankfully, old railway veteran Frank (Denzel Washington) and rookie conductor Will (Chris Pine) are going to go after it!
1. I should admit, when I first saw the trailer for this movie last year . . . yeah, I kind of sneered at it. It just looked so bad. But when I started hearing good things about it from pretty much everyone I talked to, I was like, Okay, well, maybe I’ll try renting it someday. Now that this day has come, what have I concluded?
Well, Unstoppable isn’t Shakespeare, folks, but it’s also not a really terrible Nicholas Cage action film that you watch purely to make fun of, either. I figure everyone who wanted to see this movie went because they liked at least one of four things:
A) Denzel Washington
B) Chris Pine
This movie delivers all of these things and doesn’t have to resort to cringeworthy puns in order to do so. That’s a decent freaking start, right there.
2. Of course, if you were looking for an accurate representation of trains and the railway system in general . . . I suspect you might be disappointed. I read a number of reviews for Unstoppable whining about how this or that would never happen, blah blah blah, and I’m just like, Suck it up, you big babies, it’s an action movie!
I mean, I work in a hospital, so seriously, I really do get what it’s like to watch Hollywood present their wildly loose interpretation of what you (and everyone else around you) does for a living, but come on, now. I doubt anyone watches Grey’s Anatomy to see the inner workings of a hospital. They watch it to see hot people have hot sex on hot exam tables and in hot linen closets. Hotly. Sure, it’s fun to lightly mock shows like this (and trust me, I do), but expecting any real sense of accuracy would just be silly. Similarly, expecting realism from a Tony Scott movie about trains—even one that’s loosely based on real events—is just asking to be disappointed. Maybe if it was a Clint Eastwood movie or something, but come on. This is Tony Scott. He made The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3. (Okay. That’s not fair. I haven’t even seen that movie.)
Anyway, you want a realistic storyline about trains? Here’s a realistic storyline about trains: you get on board the Coast Starlight, travel for about fifteen minutes, and then stop for forty-five while a freight train passes. Then you start traveling again for about twenty minutes and stop again for half an hour as another freight train passes. Or hell, maybe you’re just sitting in the train station for the entire two hours waiting for the Coast Starlight to show up.
There is a reason that realism doesn’t sell.
3. All right, enough of that nonsense. Let’s talk cast.
Denzel Washington is a great actor. This role couldn’t have been particularly taxing, but he’s still a lot of fun to watch whenever he’s on the screen. Denzel’s got this way of leaning back and just looking at everything around him in amusement. I love his character’s very casual confidence. And he’s really got a wonderful laugh. Thumbs up.
Chris Pine’s enjoyable here too, although I will have a few things to say about his character in the Spoiler Section, namely some concerning rage issues that are brought up and then dropped off the face of the earth. (This isn’t a serious problem with the movie, mind you, just something I find amusing). I also like how Chris Pine and Denzel Washington play off one another. They have good chemistry, particularly during the lighter moments. I don’t always buy the tension between them when they’re unhappy with each other, but I think that’s more of a writing thing than an acting thing. This movie doesn’t waste a lot of time when it comes to that whole developing characters thing.
Rosario Dawson plays Connie, the Yard Master. I’d be lying if I said I knew exactly what the job entailed, so let’s just say that she’s in charge of making sure that all the trains are going where they’re supposed to go and not exploding all over the place. And, in a way, I think Rosario Dawson has the hardest job because she doesn’t really have anyone to play off of. Most of the time, she’s on the phone yelling at people (or having people yell at her). But you like her anyway—there’s just something about Rosario Dawson that I find compelling, something that’s more than just her perfect freaking skin. I was drawn to her here, even though Connie’s kind of a thankless role.
4. One of the best things about this movie was how tense I got watching certain scenes. Sure, I went into this film like everyone else, expecting big booms and happy endings, but there is something kind of creepy about, say, two trains heading for each other at high speeds. I mean, it’s not quite like two cars going head to head where there’s usually at least a chance you might be able to swerve out of the way. Some of the action, particularly in the second half, was very well done.
5. On the other hand, some of the camerawork in the first half was more than a little ridiculous. The kind of crazy shots that are usually reserved for planes being blown out of the sky and people falling a bazillion feet through midair were also used on more mundane stuff—not that I can think of any good examples right now, dammit. Still, the whole thing was ridiculously frenetic, like, We need to make every single second of this film exciting. That teddy bear on the side of the road? We will take no less than seven separate crazy angles on that teddy bear, complete with a few choppy zooms, all to maximize your terror!
6. Chris Pine has gorgeous blue eyes. I said that before, and I’m saying it again. It’s totally worthy of its own note. Shut up.
7. Finally, I keep trying to call this movie Runaway Train instead of Unstoppable, partially because they say runaway train in their mock news footage, like, all the time, and partially because unstoppable is such a silly word that almost demands italicization and an exclamation mark. It’s not just unstoppable, it’s unstoppable!!!
So. Here are your Unstoppable!!!!! spoilers.
Here’s the movie in a nutshell:
A dumb guy is dumb and allows a huge train carrying super explosive material to take off without a conductor. Everyone thinks they’ll be able to catch it relatively easily, but it turns out the train is not going at 5 or 10 MPH. In fact, it’s going more like 75 MPH. And there will be children and trucks and trains and horsies and whole other cities in its freaking path.
Connie wants to derail the train early so that no one gets hurt. The Generic Dickhead Boss doesn’t want to cost the company a bunch of money, so he goes for a series of plans that don’t work and gets Frank’s engineer friend killed. Meanwhile, Frank is on another train with Will, who no one trusts because he’s new and his family owns the company or something like that. Turns out, Frank’s already been fired (or forced retirement with shit benefits) so he’s even less thrilled about Will and his constant cell phone chattering and stupid fuckups. Thankfully, Will is not really an incompetent spoiled brat. He’s just distracted with his looming separation, possible custody battle, and, oh yes, restraining order. We’ll get back to that in a bit.
Eventually, Will and Frank learn to work together, and they chase after the runaway train against Dickhead Boss’s orders. In the quest to slow the train down, Will tries to amputate his foot coupling the two trains together and Frank suffers no real injuries as he jumps from train car to train car. It’s Will who eventually manages to stop the train, saving the day and getting back together with his wife. Frank is also summarily forgiven by his daughters (he forgot one of their birthdays, like, oooh, big stakes). And Connie finally gets to leave her office and meet the guys. When she tells them she doesn’t know who to kiss first, Frank wastes no time in excitedly saying, “ME!” It’s kind of awesome.
The actual ending is more than a little silly, though. Captions reveal the fates of all the main characters (as if we were terribly worried that everything wouldn’t work out for them). Basically, Frank gets his job back and eventually retires with full benefits. Will and his wife get back together and have another kid. Connie gets Dickhead Boss’s job. And Dumb Guy who let all this happen in the first place is now working in the fast food industry. It’s really the kind of ending you only see in ironic comedies. I’m a little surprised that Scott didn’t just slap a gigantic HAPPILY EVER AFTER at the end of the film.
But wait, let’s go back to Will’s whole restraining order thing. It turns out that his wife is good friends with this guy (we’ll call him Bob), and Will’s jealous about the ridiculous amount of time they spend, you know, talking to each other on the phone and whatnot. So one night it becomes too much, and Will goes over to tell Bob to back the fuck off. He tells him this with a not-so-subtle threat involving his gun. To Bob who’s a cop and, awesomely, wasn’t even the person that Will’s lady was talking to that night. I suppose it could happen to anyone . . . but it probably happens a lot more to morons or people with rage issues, right? I’m just saying. I’m not sure the film takes into consideration that Will might need therapy.
But that’s for a film that takes character into account. This is not a film about character. This is a film about leaping on top of trains and trying not to get run over by them.
And that’s exactly what this movie delivers.
Sometimes, it’s up to the little guy to save the day. Especially if that little guy is Denzel Washington. Corporations just get people killed.
Also: if you’ve recently split from your wife because you’re insanely jealous and possessive, simply risk your life in order to save an entire city from being blown up by a runaway train. This will solve everything. I’m sure your insane jealousy and possessiveness have been entirely cured.