"Movies involving speeding vehicles that may explode and cause terrible damage are nothing new; the most notable is, of course, Jan de Bont’s 1994 action film "Speed." Since its release, many films have tried to take various permutations of its basic premise and apply it to their own plots. Most of these films have been terrible. That said, "Unstoppable," the latest film from director Tony Scott ("Top Gun"), is a fairly decent attempt to attach the basic concepts of "Speed" to a different plot. However, the film is not perfect.
"The film begins with train conductor Will Colson (Chris Pine, "Star Trek") beginning his workday. Upon arriving to work in Stanton, Pa., he meets his partner, veteran engineer Frank Barnes (Denzel Washington, "Remember the Titans"), who is initially uneasy about by training him. Meanwhile, in Fuller, Pa., a railroad worker named Dewey (Ethan Suplee, "American History X") makes a mistake when switching to a different rail, allowing train 777 to leave the station unmanned and with the throttle placed at its highest setting.
"The train, which is carrying several tanks of hazardous materials, is on a collision course with a train filled with elementary schoolchildren. In addition, the train will soon be passing through a number of densely populated areas, causing disastrous results should it derail.
"After Barnes and Colson finish their morning assignment, they hear the news about the situation with 777. Ignoring the order to pull into the nearest siding, they decide to track down the train, in hopes of stopping it before it can cause any more damage.
"It is quite apparent early on that a basic understanding of train terminology is necessary to fully enjoy this film, as a great deal of the dialogue and scenery depends on it. As a result, the movie can be a tad confusing at times. That said, the film’s plot is certainly an interesting one.
"Washington’s performance as Barnes is a great fit, especially since it is similar to most of Washington’s other roles, perhaps most recognizably Coach Boone of "Remember the Titans." Pine, on the other hand, provides a fairly decent performance though not quite as good as his role as Captain Kirk in "Star Trek;" while he certainly maintains the one-liner-slinging nature of that role, it is not nearly as prevalent. Beyond the film’s two stars, the acting is mostly so-so, with many characters feeling underutilized. Jessy Schram (TV’s "Crash") plays a highly overlooked role as Colson’s wife, appearing for a brief moment in the beginning of the film and playing only a minor part at the end.
"Perhaps the most disappointing thing about "Unstoppable" is its pacing. Unlike the film’s trailer, which gives the impression of a high-octane action-thriller, its actual plot is rather slow to begin with. Only by the end of the film’s third act does its pace begin to speed up. Also, the plotline involving the elementary schoolchildren is highly overstated in the trailer, as it is really only a 10-15 minute segment. This further helps suggest that "Unstoppable" is a perfect example of how the trailer of a film can overstate the actual movie itself.
""Unstoppable" while by no means a terrible film, is a bit of a disappointment, given both its hype and initial premise. It certainly has the star power to make it an enjoyable experience for some, but it is not for everyone.