Director: Tony Scott
Writer: Mark Bomback
Cinematographer: Ben Seresin
by Susan Bartley
Unstoppable is the type of movie where the title alone is enough of a warning. I watched Crimson Tide again shortly before it and assumed that - at the very least - Scott’s style would carry into his later work, offering an action packed, well made popcorn film. Instead we get a completely illogical, overly edited film that contains those bold and uninspired orange/blue/green colors circa 2005-2012.
It involves two train workers - one old and forced into retirement, Frank Barnes (Denzel Washington), and the other nepotistically positioned into a senior role, Will Colson (Chris Pine). Chris Pine does an excellent job of looking good and delivering every single line with the same, unconvincing pain of a man who’s imagining he lost his family. Of course, Denzel kills the role. It’s shot with that early 00s, The-Shield-type of hand-held camera which conveniently snap zooms during moments of tension. The story's like watching a grandparent use Facebook - mildly entertaining in how much it doesn’t work, even down to the finest detail.
For instance, when the news gets word of the runaway train the news anchors and graphics are so fake in design it looks like a parody. Why is this so hard to get this right? My suspicion’s that the budget required to create authentic “Breaking News” graphics a la Fox News or CNN is a large cost and a tough line item to defend when you enter into post. Okay, understandable, but can’t some VFX house make a template and save it for later use. Like a Weebly for movie news graphics? Because every time I see parodied versions I'm immediately pulled out no matter how hand held the film is.
Worse is the logic. After a 23 year old Marine veteran tries to land onto the train in a helicopter and fails; and after Frank and Will decide to chase the runaway train down, attach their own train’s engine to it, ease it to a stop, and fail; only then does one of the Train Dispatch workers (not on the unstoppable train) come to the rescue in his pickup truck, with the ingenious idea of having Will jump into the back, drive up to the runaway train, and then have him hop in. Given the circumstance, why wasn’t this incredibly simple plan the first course of action? Because it would have cut the story down to thirty minutes.
The film ends with a bang as a press conference is shot from every imaginable angle. I don’t hear/can't understand a single thing the police or anyone else says because there are so many cuts that I lose my sense of time and space. All I know is Will is reunited with his wife and kid. Denzel gets a kiss. And his daughters still work at Hooters.
Below's a clip demonstrating the first course of action for the runaway train. It'll take about 90 minutes before someone figures out that it might be easier to drive a truck up to the engine, have someone hop in, and stop the thing.
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