Inspired by true events, but not telling the story of those true events. I'm addressing this to the people who are going to complain about how the movie isn't the same as what actually happened. The movie is fiction and has no illusions about that. Talking to my friend who works with trains and knows the actual story that UNSTOPPABLE is based on, I knew right from the opening scene that this wasn't telling the same story. The actual even happened in Ohio and the train was traveling around 47 M.P.H. with 2 cars full of Molten Phenol for about 66 miles before it was stopped. The movie takes place in Pennsylvania and the train is going over 75 M.P.H. carrying 6 cars of Molten Phenol and is a lot more eventful. If you can get over the fact that the film is fiction, then you're in for a ride.
Chris Pine and Denzel Washington have great chemistry together and the down time spent with these two feel genuine. Washington is the wise teacher while Pine is the smart but green trainee who's feeling he's not off to a good start. The banter between them feels real and is one of my favorite parts of the film. We get into these characters enough from their conversations during their time spent together on the train, but we get unnecessary side characters to go along with them to try and strengthen our connection with them only to bog down the movie. Do we actually need to see Pine's wife and kid or Washington's daughters for us to like them more? No. But the movie gives them to us anyway.
I'm a huge Tony Scott fan and I really like his frenetic style of film making. Even when he goes a bit overboard like with DOMINO and DEJA VU, his films are generally fun to watch. UNSTOPPABLE has a lot of Tony's signatures on it. The camera's almost always moving around, stylish editing, some nice explosions, but he never goes too far with any of it. The cinematography is great though I think he may have used some of the same camera movements a bit too much not only through the course of the film, but sometimes in the same scene. But when the moment calls for a really nicely executed shot, Scott pulls it off beautifully.
Other than some moments that could have been trimmed down here and there, the story is fast and engaging. From the get-go things are happening and the sense of urgency is constant. When you think about it, the movie's first about a 2 trains playing chicken, then one train chasing another train. Doesn't really sound very exciting, but I was hardly ever sitting still and I could hear the audience -- which was sadly under 30 people in a 500 seat theatre -- getting rowdy and vocalizing their adrenaline. There are several moments that are there just to get blood boiling reactions then they're gone only to be seen on the news channels in the background, but they all work for the most part.
UNSTOPPABLE builds up nicely set piece by set piece with nice dosage of Pine and Washington in between to keep us emotionally invested. When the film comes to the final 30 minutes and the climax we actually feel the tension that they feel. I got nervous for them and was shaking with anticipation. Even though it stretches the bounds of what can happen with one of the bits during the finale it never breaks. While I doubt it could happen in real life, I was on board for it for the film.
UNSTOPPABLE feels like it should have been a summer release instead of around the holidays. It's fast paced and intense but does lack a bit in substance. It's the very definition of a good popcorn flick. It's Tony Scott's best and most enjoyable film since MAN ON FIRE -- which is easily is best film to date. Most people will be pleased that he's made up for TAKING OF PELHAM 123 -- which I really liked the first hour of but the last act really fell apart. While I don't think he needed to redeem himself, he definitely made an exciting train movie that we didn't get with 123.