“Unstoppable” (2010)

Film Review Unstoppable

★★★½☆

If only it had also been “unpredictable.”

Another 3.5 star rating? Yup. This time for completely different reasons.

“Unstoppable” is a well made, well acted, and well written film. Denzel Washington and Chris Pine do a great job as the veteran and rookie train workers trying to prevent a catastrophe – a runaway train loaded with explosives and toxic chemicals. Washington is good in just about every role he chooses and this is no different. Unfortunately, the role is a bit familiar for him – the wise veteran with the heart of gold who always does What’s Right no matter what. Predictable.

Chris Pine is the rookie conductor – from a well-connected family so everyone with the rail company resents him – and he has marriage trouble and a little girl who he can’t stand to be away from. Again: predictable.

The action scenes are well done. Although the part where they try to drop a guy onto the runaway engine from a helicopter seemed kind of contrived in that it was so poorly executed as to almost seem deliberate for the sake of the plot. One thing they fail to really portray is the size and force and sheer mass of a train that size. It’s one thing to say it’s a “missile the size of the Chrysler Building” but it’s another to really give the viewer a sense of that kind of size.

The men who run the railroad are scum and more interested in profit than human lives. Predictable. The guys who screw up and let the train go away are idiots. Predictable. The woman in charge of the train station responsible for the runaway train is plucky and strong-willed. Predictable. And the message at the end about where everyone ended up in life is equally: predictable.

I’m probably being too harsh in my review here because I did enjoy watching it. But at the end of the show I felt kind of like: “so what?”. They hit the expected emotional buttons throughout but there really wasn’t much of a surprise anywhere. They had a real opportunity here to make a definitive movie about brave men who work in a very dangerous business because they love the machines they work on. And instead we got a well-made, high-budget made-for-TV movie “based on real-life events.”

Is “Unstoppable” worth seeing? Yes. Will you be talking about it the next day? Probably not.