Film Review: Unstoppable

Starring: Denzel Washington, Chris Pine, Rosario Dawson, Ethan Suplee, Kevin Dunn
Director: Tony Scott
20th Century Fox
Rated PG-13 for sequences of action and peril, and some language

For the better part of his 40-plus years in Hollywood, veteran film director Tony Scott has provided some of the most riveting action thrillers ever in cinema history. He’s proven his skilled hand with top-flight action in Top Gun, heart-pumping speed in Days of Thunder, underwater tension in “Crimson Tide”, and most recently, his race-against-time thrill-ride, Unstoppable. Teaming with movie star Denzel Washington for a fifth film, Tony Scott has once again provided a worthwhile actioner in this fast-paced flick that proves that even when you know the outcome, the events leading up to it can keep you gripped with suspense. Unstoppable is now available on VUDU to own, or to rent in SD, HD, and HDX 28-days before either Netflix or Redbox!

Inspired by true events, Unstoppable follows two men who couldn’t be more different. Will Colson (Chris Pine) views his work as a train conductor as just another job. He’s estranged from his wife and son due to a restraining order that came about from an unfortunate misunderstanding. Railway veteran Frank Barnes (Denzel Washington) views his work as a train engineer as his life, having served for over 28 years. He’s similarly estranged from his college-aged daughters, never making enough time for them because of his job. Will’s first day pairs him with Frank, who’s apprehensive to train the man who’ll one day take his job. On the same day, two slacker train engineers (Ethan Suplee, T.J. Miller) goof up on the job, resulting in a train operating without a conductor. What appears to initially be a small matter quickly turns for the worse as the train unexpectedly picks up speed, barreling through the cities and towns of Pennsylvania. Will and Frank soon realize that they’re the only ones on the same track who have a chance to stop the train before it derails, which is also carrying volatile toxic chemicals. With time against them and the train running out of track, they put aside their differences to hopefully avert a colossal disaster.

While Denzel Washington continues his impressive streak of commanding screen performances, the real gem in Unstoppable is Chris Pine. Hot off of his performance as James T. Kirk in the Paramount reboot of the Star Trek franchise, Pine is quickly proving that Star Trek was no fluke and that he’s ready to be Hollywood’s next leading man. In fact, he’s already in line to reboot another franchise, taking on the role of Jack Ryan from the series of books by Tom Clancy. Pine brings a deep and brooding intensity to the role of Will. He’s desperate to reconnect with his family and move on from his past, and at the same time, he’s a no-nonsense kind of guy, who won’t be fazed by his rookie status. Most impressive is Pine’s willingness to perform his own stunts, particularly during one of the most pivotal and dangerous moments in the film. He may be next Hollywood’s leading man, but he also just might be the next big action star.

Equally impressive in the sound of Unstoppable, which was recently recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences with an Academy Award nomination for best sound editing. With so much happening in this movie, sound and sound effects play such a pivotal role, particularly when immersing the audience in the world of the film. The sound effects and the musical score by Harry Gregson-Williams do an amazing job of allowing the tension to crescendo, continuously building and building until the thrilling climax. Sound is often taken for granted in movies, but put this movie on mute and the impact is felt instantly. Without the brilliant sound design of this film, there would be no stakes, there would be no pressure. The sound helps to bring everything together to keep the adrenaline-filled action moving and moving.

Unstoppable is sure to please fans of taut, intense action thrillers. Like Apollo 13, since it is based on true events, it does an admirable job of building and maintaining suspense even though the outcome is already known. Of course, Unstoppable takes artistic liberties to make the real-life events more dramatic and action-packed than they really were. Even with the artistic liberties, the story and characters and grounded and based in reality, making it all the more extreme knowing events like this could happen. Unstoppable is definitely great popcorn cinema and proof-positive that Tony Scott’s ability to deliver action thrillers means we have many more of his thrill-rides to expect.


This is director Tony Scott’s second consecutive movie dealing with trains, the first being the 2009 remake The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, which also starred Denzel Washington. Their fifth collaboration almost never came to be, as the development of the movie took over six years. When 20th Century Fox asked Washington to take $4 million dollars off his normal fee to keep the movie under budget, Washington left the project, citing continued production delays. But when Fox came in with an eleventh hour incentive, Washington rejoined the project.