Tuesday 3 April 2012


(Tony Scott, 2010)

Unstoppable is probably Tony Scott's worst film since the risable The Fan, and yet, almost all of what is good about it is down to him.
Based on an actual incident, the film follows the efforts of various railroad workers to halt a driverless, runaway train before it reaches a large population centre where the chemicals amongst it's cargo are likely to cause a deadly accident. Chief amongst those workers are a predictably mismatched pair in the cab of another train on the same line, each with his own, not-all-that-interesting backstory (Denzel Washington and Chris Pine).
The acting is efficient enough, both leads displaying their different brands of starry charisma, but this is thin stuff, using characters as muscles to move the plot jerkily along, giving them the barest possible personality types, and massively over-reliant on tv news for exposition.
What makes it worthwhile is Scott's direction. He takes material which demands extremely repetitive imagery - trains, trains and more trains - and with his usual aggressive editing, he fills the frame with these powerful machines hurtling across beautifully desolate industrial landscapes, all rattling freight carriages and roaring engines. The people - and the story, even - seem almost irrelevant as he layers and builds his shots up into thrilling montages of locomotives crossing the earth, the sense of peril surrounding them never quite as arresting as it might be.

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