For this month’s first review for Genre Grandeur – Historical True Story Films, here’s a review of Unstoppable (2010) by SG of Rhyme & Reason
Thanks again to Vinnie of Vinnie H. for choosing this month’s genre.
Next month’s Genre has been chosen by Jeanette of The Mundane Adventures of a Fangirl and it is 80’s Fantasy Films.
Please get me your submissions by the 25th of March by sending them to firstname.lastname@example.org
Try to think out of the box! Great choice Jeanette!
Let’s see what SG thought of this movie:
There once was a train moving strong
That simply would not play along.
It just wouldn’t quit
Till two fellows stopped it,
So I guess the film’s title is wrong.
MPAA rating: PG-13 (for some language)
As far as movies that spruce up real events while remaining just faithful enough to stay recognizable, Unstoppable is one of the best. The last film of director Tony Scott, it makes good use of his frantic camera movements, allowing all the zooming and shakiness to add tension to this runaway train story, which is based on an actual 2001 incident. For a disaster movie, it’s really more about the threat of disaster, but it’s still an all-around thrilling ride.
Things start out in very mundane everyday circumstances, as days of disaster tend to do, as a complacent rail-yard worker leaves the cab of the slow-moving train #777, only for it to get away unmanned and pick up speed, much like the real-life CSX 8888. It soon becomes clear to yardmaster Connie Hooper (Rosario Dawson) and her money-minded superiors that the train is an imminent threat, since it’s carrying both diesel fuel and highly toxic molten phenol. While all this is happening, new conductor Will Colson (Chris Pine, not to be confused with Phil Coulson) is paired with old pro Frank Barnes (Tony Scott favorite Denzel Washington), and they soon find themselves faced with the oncoming danger of Triple 7.
There are a few moments that come off as tailor-made for the movie’s purposes, like the unwise placement of fuel tanks right next to a dangerous curve, not to mention the fact that the news provides running commentary and details on everything happening, while the real incident wasn’t quite as freely publicized. Yet Unstoppable still feels highly grounded with its lack of superhuman feats and the realistic train industry jargon that is still understandable enough for the uninitiated. Pine and Washington deliver strong performances, each character having different levels of experience yet both working hard for their families. We get to know them as they get to know each other, and it’s nail-bitingly tense when they’re put in danger, which is a sign of an effective thriller.
My VC is especially fond of this movie, and while it’s not quite among my favorites, it does get better with every viewing. Real-life disaster films can be dicey sometimes (though really good when done right, like Deepwater Horizon, for example), but Unstoppable has the advantage of adapting a “disaster” that, as far as I can tell, didn’t actually kill anyone, so that the threat can feel real while also enjoyably tense. That threat is exaggerated here (there is one death in the movie), but it retains the needed realism. Between the relatable and heroic leads, unrelenting pace, and occasional bursts of action, Unstoppable has never a dull moment.
Best line: (Frank, to Will) “This ain’t training. In training, they just give you an F. Out here, you get killed.”
Rank: List Runner-Up
© 2018 S.G. Liput
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