Many popular directors have a signature style. Tony Scott's includes shaky cams, sharp cuts, shots that move in and out of focus, and a raw, grainy look. His latest film, Unstoppable, is no different, and Scott effectively uses this style to build a fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat thrill ride that will leave many viewers happy they jumped on board, though some may leave clutching their stomachs.
Scott teams with star Denzel Washington for the fifth time and gets another exceptional performance from one of the few actors who can still command a $20 million contract. Washington portrays 28-year veteran train engineer Frank who teams up with rookie Will (Chris Pine) for the first time on what starts out as just another day at the yard in Stanton, Pa. Some miles north, a slacker train engineer (Ethan Suplee) jumps off a slow-moving train to make a track switch ahead of him, but the train slips into a higher speed and barrels past the operator before he can make the switch. Thus begins an intense race against the clock to stop the speeding train and its highly flammable cargo before it reaches Stanton.
Intermixed with the high-stakes train chase are some touching scenes where Will and Frank relate to each other the trying family circumstances each is experiencing, moments that ground these characters and earn them an even deeper emotional investment from the audience, offsetting somewhat the strong offensive language that earns this film a PG-13 rating.
Rosario Dawson delivers a standout performance as train dispatcher Connie Hooper, who finds herself sparring with her politically minded superior Oscar Galvin (Kevin Dunn) over how to stop the train. Lew Temple also impresses with his offbeat, quirky interpretation of train welder Ned Oldham.
Tony Scott can make his audience laugh, cry, bite their nails, and vomit, often in the same minute, so take some Dramamine, buckle up, keep your arms and hands inside the car at all times, and, oh yes, enjoy the ride!
-Michael Leaser is editor of FilmGrace and an associate of The Clapham Group