Unstoppable - DVD Review

Scott gives us a surprisingly standard introduction to the two main characters. No choppy editing. No slow motion. No headache.

Unstoppable starts in typical Tony Scott fashion. Whilst the pre-title credits play, Scott starts messing around with fast and slow motion, frame rates, choppy editing, combinations of black screen and bright orange images of trains; in general, any technique that is likely to give the viewer a headache. Then, amazingly, the title comes on, the screen calms down, Scott gives us a surprisingly standard introduction to the two main characters. No choppy editing. No slow motion. No headache.

It's almost as if the director is in on his own joke, teasing us with the fact that Unstoppable might well be another Domino before pulling the rug completely and delivering a straight-up thriller, which is exactly what Unstoppable proves to be.

The clues are in the inauspicious first act, which could have been taken from any thriller, ever. Denzel Washington plays the same character he played in The Taking Of Pelham 123. Chris Pine plays the role of hot-headed youngster with troubles, which could just have easily have gone to Shia LaBeouf. Both have problems and families: things that will remain unresolved or people who will miss them if they snuff it before the final reel. Washington even misses one of his daughter's birthdays before the errant train has made it onto the open tracks.

What emerges out of a stock collection of thriller tropes and setup material though is something which approaches Scott's best work. Unstoppable is tense, well edited, fast-paced and occasionally remarkable. It's exactly what you expect to get when you sit down to watch a film about a runaway train, Scott wisely choosing not to indulge in his normal directorial ticks which have ruined many a film over recent years.

The script is a little clunky (did Connie (Rosario Dawson) just happen to know the height of the Chrysler Building for that pay-off line) but as is usual in action-thriller territory, dialogue is often sidelined in favour of a fast-paced soundtrack, coherent cinematography and action to wear out the edge of seats across the country. One shot - of a group of school children in another train, seen through the gaps as the runaway train passes them - is a master-class in sound and picture editing and shows that Scott might have finally got his action mojo back.

Look further...

'there’s not too many levels to the plot of Unstoppable [but] really how many different ways can you take a story about a runaway train?' - Good Film Guide, 7/10


  1. Brent.
    I actually was bored senseless by this!! I guess my mood wasn't right but I just felt like I'd seen it all before, except the premise was about a train.
    You are right though as it is taut in places with plenty of tension. Again it comes back to that funny ole' thing called taste doesn't it!

  2. This movie is grand entertainment. I wished they made more like it.

  3. The leads are good but Scott's direction really started to annoy me cause it was so darn frantic and all-over-the-place, that I just wanted some real tension. Good Review!

  4. Brent - I don't think you're wrong about having seen it all before but I do think that Scott managed to get fairly good mileage out of the 'race against time' premise.

    Mike - I agree. Specifically I wish Scott would do more like this.

    Dan - I actually think this is his calmest film in quite some time. PELHAM 123, DOMINO, MAN ON FIRE, DEJA VU; all more frantic than this. I think you have to go back to SPY GAME to find him shooting in a calmer style and even that has a few choppy and blurry cuts.