Sunday, 9 January 2011


Unstoppable 2010 USA
Directed by Tony Scott
Screening at UK cinemas

You know I’d really like to write that Unstoppable is a hurtling express train-ride of a movie delivering fast thrills and surprises to anything standing in its path. I'd like to... but I really wouldn’t be justified in doing so.

Similarly, I was more expecting to be able to write that Unstoppable is a dull, lumbering, slow train of a movie with more station halts than you can comfortably shake a stick at... but that wouldn’t be fair either considering that, in spite of the content of the movie, it’s actually quite an entertaining piece of popcorn fodder cinema.

I think the key to Unstoppable lies not in its casting... which is actually quite good, but in it’s director Tony Scott... who has always proved a dab hand at these kinds of films (although personally I prefer him when he’s tackling stuff like The Hunger). And when I say that he’s the key to it... I really mean it because no great performances (and the performances are all more than competent in this movie) are going to save this dud, cliched script from being the completely predictable abomination it is... only Tony Scott, the director can do that... presumably because he’s throwing everything and the kitchen sink at it.

So let’s see what we’ve got then. A just redundant old timer working his last two weeks on the job (played well by Denzel Washington) and young newbie with a back story Chris Pine (that’s the post-Shatner Captain Kirk) risking certain death to stop a hurtling missile of a train crashing on a bend and wiping out a whole town when it goes down because of its cargo. Seriously folks, the only real difference between this and The Cassandra Crossing is the lack of passengers and disease ridden people and the fact that the main protagonists are not actually sitting on the “train of doom” in this one.

My reaction to this movie by about a third of the way through was... “I can’t believe that Hollywood are still churning out films this dumb and formulaic. Surely a modern audience is not going to sit still for this level of obviousness?” And it’s true... I can’t. What audience was this movie made for? What’s going on?

But Tony Scott at leasts uses the language of the cinema to make it visually exciting and suspenseful... using lots of fast whip pans which even the credits sequence and location/time intertitles use as their animated make-up in order to push the whole “things are happening fast” massage home to you... ramming it down your throat as fast as it can. I don’t know how he does it but he manages to make the whole thing watchable... even if you are writing the characters script in your head as you watch it and it plays out exactly as you would expect... even down to the “have your cake and eat it” conclusion of the movie.

The truth on this one lies somewhere between those two opening statements I made about what I was wanting and expecting this film to be like. It’s not a terrible movie and I certainly didn’t mind spending a couple of hours of my time at the cinema to see it... it was fairly fun and you can just switch your brain completely off on this one. I wouldn’t watch it again but it’s certainly good enough for some light-hearted entertainment. Just don’t expect to go home on this one with a sense of having watched anything with a sense of fulfilment or accomplishment... it is what it is. A popcorn movie pure and simple. See it if you have some hours of spare time on your hands.


  1. Popcorn movies have a place. I like to fantasize that those movies underwrite directors to try edgier fare within studio support. If you tell me I'm wrong, I'll cry.

    Glad you took the time to show what is likable about this flick.

  2. Yeah... The Cassavete's Ultimatum.

    Always a good idea.