Unstoppable is a fantastic thrill ride, that is a bit like Speed on rails, but feels more dangerous and menacing. For a hundred minutes the audience is taken on a high speed chase through rural Pennsylvania where a runaway train, half a mile long, loaded with explosive chemicals is hurtling towards certain carnage.

Make no mistake, the movie is formulaic. You have all the characters required to make the ultimate feel-good situational thriller. A series of unlikely events resulting in a massing snafu. A golf-playing CEO along with a profit-minded Corporate executive. The extremely capable middle-manager that is willing to stake everything on a hunch. And finally the flawed yet capable man on the job who alone stands in the way of certain disaster.

Denzel Washington (Frank) seems to have been built for movies like this. His weather-beaten capability, gravitas-filled gruffness and occasional burst of humor make him likeable. His presence on screen is reassuring. Chris Pine (Will) plays the younger apprentice. The background score is great, dominated by speedy percussion and bass. The screenplay is brisk and engaging. Cinematography includes a lot of aerial footage, and dolly shots for a sense of speed.

The movie has its annoying aspects as well. The presence of news camera crews, and frequent cuts to news clips as a means to provide background information - was a lot more distracting than I would have guessed. There is also the little background story that could: not quite a logical inclusion into the story at the same time not too much of a distraction.

The pace of the movie is perfect, and unrelenting. There isn't a moment to breathe. I hadn't realized that I was grinding my teeth throughout the movie till I felt my achy jaw toward the end. This is no cerebral think-fest. Rather it is a simple, raw, enjoyable ride with thousands of tons of steel.

January 10, 2011


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