The Runaway Train
Tony Scott made a lot of great movies in his time, he knew how to deliver action and excitement like no one else and it is what made his movies entertaining. It almost seems ironic that his last movie "Unstoppable" was such a simple movie with a runaway train yet it was one of his best with an exhilarating ride of action and tension. In many ways "Unstoppable" is just an old disaster movie, the speeding vehicle with the deadly load and a couple of guys risking their lives to stop it, you could even say "Speed" on a train but because it is thrilling, dramatic and packed full of adrenalin it works and for me was what it set out to be and that is simply great entertainment.
Train driver Dewey (Ethan Suplee) decided to jump from his train as he needed the points changing, unfortunately for him the controls slipped and now there is a runaway train heading down the main line with a load containing toxic chemicals. As various attempts to stop it fail and the media go wild it is up to engineer Frank (Denzel Washington - The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3) and conductor Will (Chris Pine - Carriers) to try and catch up to the train and slow it down before it derails causing a major disaster.
"Unstoppable" is simply simple, there are various stories, we have Will who we discover is currently separated from his wife and child and we also have a bit of attitude as Frank initially doesn't like Will but they are flourishes which never distract from the main story. And that main story is simply a runaway train and the attempts to stop it from an attempt to winch an engineer down to a guy called Ned who is racing up alongside the train in his truck. Oh and of course the inevitable which is Frank and Will's attempt to save the day and slow the train down. It is basically your old style disaster movie just brought up to date with Tony Scott style action.
And to be honest that is why "Unstoppable" is entertaining, it is simple and an adrenalin filled roller coaster ride of action, a good old fashioned white knuckle ride of excitement. But don't think that makes it just another action movie because whilst Tony Scott delivers one big action scene after another he fills the movie from start to finish with tension. And by the time we get to the big final scenes it is so exhilarating that you do literally have white knuckles. Okay so there is one scene where it goes a bit too over the top and for what is an outrageous action movie is a little too outrageous but other than that it is pure entertainment.
What is also nice is that whilst we have a recognizable cast which whilst lead by Denzel Washington also features Chris Pine, Nathan Suplee, Rosario Dawson and Kevin Dunn none of them are the star. The action is the star and this team of actors deliver the action more than they deliver characters, now that may sound like it's bad but this sort of movie doesn't need in-depth characters just recognizable people who are not flat but neither are they over complex. It basically means that they all including Denzel Washington deliver stereotypical performances from giving attitude to moments of humour but it is exactly what the movie demanded.
What this all boils down to is that "Unstoppable" is for me one of Tony Scott's best movies purely because it does what it set out to do and that is deliver an uncomplicated white knuckle ride of action and tension. It is simple but intentionally so and fans of action movies will love every second of Scott's final movie as director.