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When Trains Get Mad
on 15 November 2011
If I wrote a film about a train it would be a horror about catching one up North near Christmas with all your presents in tow. Action-meister Tony Scott thought otherwise and decided to adapt a real life crisis and make the type of kinetic film he is known for. `Unstoppable', the train film that happens when Thomas gets really angry.
Frank (Denzel Washington) is a veteran train driver and on this particular day he is working with rookie Will (Chris Pine). Together they come across a crisis that only they can stop. A runaway train is hurtling towards a city and will explode if it makes it. By casting Washington, Scott knew from the outset exactly what type of film he was after and so do you as a viewer. Washington's current film persona is one of a worn down old fashioned everyman - and this film has an old fashioned feel to it (if 80s action is old fashioned by now). On Washington's own, the film may have lacked energy, so casting up and coming Captain Kirk was a great idea. The interplay between the two actors is not fantastic, but it is interesting enough that we are actually invested in their fate.
The film was less about characters and more about action. Tony Scott gets a bad press, but I prefer his all-out fun films over his brother's work any day. Scott is a connoisseur of the fast cut and he uses it a lot in `Unstoppable' to heighten the tension. This works whilst the characters are on the train and there is a real sense of speed and power. It works less when leaping from character to character; Frank's daughters to Frank. Trying to manipulate a viewer's emotions with no backstory and only jump cuts is not going to work.
Whilst it lasts, `Unstoppable' is a fun ride. It's an empty headed action film, but done well and in an old fashioned way that is not prevalent today. The grainy style of film is not brilliant on BluRay, but the format does impress when looking at the scenery and speeding vehicles. There is also an interesting making of that explains how they developed the real life situation into a film. Let's just say a lot of artistic licence was used.