dir Tony Scott
scr Mark Bomback
prd Eric McLeod, Mimi Rogers, Tony Scott, Julie Yorn, Alex Young
with Denzel Washington, Chris Pine, Rosario Dawson, Kevin Dunn, Ethan Suplee, TJ Miller, Kevin Corrigan, Lew Temple, Jessy Schram, Elizabeth Mathis, Meagan Tandy, Kevin Chapman
release US 12.Nov.10, UK 24.Nov.10
10/US Fox 1h38
Intrepid heroes: Pine and Washington

dawson corrigan miller
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Unstoppable Stripped of all pretence, this true story of valiant derring-do is a raucously entertaining action movie. Mercifully, Scott and Washington, working together for the umpteenth time, allow it to play out like a B-movie, clearly having fun with all of the heroics.

On one fateful day, veteran engineer Frank (Washington) and rookie Will (Pine) head out onto the tracks in rural Pennsylvania. They soon learn that chuckleheads (Suplee and Miller) at the other end of the line have let a half-mile-long freight train run loose on a head-on collision course. And it's loaded with toxic chemicals. And heading for a dangerous curve in a populated area. As the yard boss (Dawson) argues with the company executive (Dunn) over what to do, Frank and Will realise that they have to take drastic action.

Like a 1970s disaster classic, the script is packed with details that add wrinkles to each character, from Frank's and Will's desperate attempts to connect with their Hooters-waitress daughters (Mathis and Tandy) and estranged wife (Schram), respectively. Neither of these dramas has much weight, but both merrily stir up the suspense. Similarly, the personality clashes between the train company employees are riotously silly, but essential for the genre.

Scott deploys his considerable skills at building atmosphere, character intrigue and pulsing momentum as the tension escalates to almost unbearable levels. The smoke-huffing face of the red runaway train (number 777) is like something from a Stephen King story, while Frank and Will's increasingly perilous attempts to stop it are amusingly inspiring. It's not easy to pry apart those white knuckles to dab away tears at their, yes, unstoppable pluckiness.

And the cast members take us along for the ride, diving into both melodrama and imminent disaster. Washington and Pine make a far-above-average movie odd couple, while Dawson's steely resolve, Dunn's pointless villainy and Corrigan's measured braininess (as a security expert) add the required texture. The way they all blurt out ludicrous dialog as if it's the most sensible thing in the world can hardly help but make us smile. Especially since we're right with them, hanging on for dear life as the film careens its way to the big finish.

cert 12 themes, language, violence 16.Nov.10

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© 2010 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall