An unmanned train carrying hazardous materials is barreling down a stretch of track at 70 miles/hour that eventually passes through populated areas. A second train is also on this track traveling in the opposite direction towards it. If the second train is traveling at 40 miles/hour, how soon will the impending collision occur?
Okay, so technically the variables of this word problem don’t completely match the plot of Unstoppable, but when it comes down to it the film does play out like a high quality dramatization of a high school physics problem. There are trains moving towards each other, trains following each other, helicopters flaunting their velocity, and other crazy antics with the hope of bringing this train to a stop. Basically the list goes on and on. Luckily for us this makes all the variations of this physics problem much more exciting than I remember, and this is coming from someone who actually enjoyed that class.
The tension slowly builds following the initial incident of human stupidity that sends the dominoes tumbling, followed by more and more of these errors in judgment to lead to the possibility of this explosive bomb detonating throughout the tense hour and a half of the film. Let’s just say that if there wasn’t a huge “based on true events” stamp following the opening credits that it would have been impossible not to completely write this film off for how little faith the writers has in humanity. Apparently in this case they really were just idiotic in numerous ways, and unfortunately for those watching the cries of: “This looks like a job for Superman!” must go unanswered.
Though the Man of Steel may be the one with the catchphrase boasting speeds faster than bullets and strength greater than a speeding locomotive, Denzel Washington is definitely a man who makes the cut of people to call during emergencies, especially when the task at hand is not covered in the Ghostbusters job description. Washington plays Frank Barnes, a railroad engineer that finds himself working to help prevent this dangerous situation from culminating in the worst-case scenario that seems more and more possible with each passing minute. Chris Pine is stuck at the head of their train with him, and though each man does a fantastic job with their roles the two really have great chemistry together and counterbalance the overwhelming levels of tension in many of their scenes by giving us even more of a reason to care other than the simple high octane action story. After all, it is highly probable that watching a train barreling down a track for and hour and a half will lose its excitement at some point and time.
In addition to Washington and Pine working their magic from their front row seats to the action, there are plenty of recognizable faces watching the events unfold from the sidelines. Of them all, Rosario Dawson has the biggest role to play, but her acting chops aren’t really tested in this film. Occasionally she gets to toss around some jabs at Kevin Dunn’s infuriatingly money oriented look at the possible damage, but for the most part Washington comes out on top with the best lines of the film. Instead she mainly just gets to react as the audience does to what she is watching, with cheers, gasps, and what not.
And there sure will be a lot of these. Though the film’s plot reads like it should have the title Speed with whatever number they are on after it, and is honestly quite laughable when I first learned of it, I couldn’t help but get wrapped up in the story that unfolded at high speeds. Most likely because of the acting skills and the tension built into the editing, Unstoppable is a film that will have you sitting on the edge of your seat, praying that when all is said and done you will be able to jump up and cheer. Or at least breath a sigh of relief that triggers the release of your hands’ vice grip on your legs, thus allowing the blood to flow back into them. You have your reaction, I have mine.
Final Grade: B