It's a shame that a film called Unstoppable, and about a high speed train hurtling down a track, is rendered motionless by the time the half-time mark hits. Unstoppable isn't a bad film - it's just an unexciting, tedious little movie which is competently made, but fails to bring anything new to the table.
Because the premise is so one note - Will (Chris Pine) and Frank (Denzel Washington) start Will's training program on the same day that a train loaded with dangerous chemicals is set loose at about 160 km/h going through residential areas - the film feels the need to pad up a half-hour story with a lot of extras. It's those extras that, rather than add depth to the film, distract from the main tale, and bore you to death.
Rosario Dawson and Kevin Corrigan round up the train experts, and are thrown in with a corporate type who is only interested in saving face for the company. An obvious bogeyman for most films, but when your main antagonist is a huge train, everything else is uninteresting faff.
Since the padding up of time isn't enough, Tony Scott decides that the men in charge of the situation must be shown for a good half-an-hour getting to the rogue train. For all his efforts and swooshing Bollywood style cinematography, Tony Scott struggles with making a train chase interesting. A train chasing another train is not exactly the stuff of thrilling films.
Worse still is the insistence of using news reports as storytelling devices. Almost 25% of the film is told through news reports or animation graphics used by news broadcasts. With a film that has such a plain agenda, all these little touches distract and bring to question their validity and usefulness. At best they are muddles themes, at worst this is all padding to make sure a 30-minute story can play out for a film's length.
While all else fails, the main leads understand what they have been brought here to do, and make sure the audience gets its money's worth. Pine and Washington use their charisma and very good chemistry with each other to good effect, and while we wait for the trains to catch up, both of them carry the film as best they can. Really, these two gentlemen are the saving grace of the film.
While this review does sound a little negative, please realise that I didn't exactly hate the film. It is competently made, and Tony Scott has thankfully abstained from the hyper-cutting and attention-deficit photography of his previous films. He shows great restraint in shooting with wider angles, and while his favourite colour palette is intact, it still looks much unlike a Tony Scott joint.
The Bollywood-inspired dolly shots and undercarriage shots are interesting, too - though ultimately used too much to stand out as a cool new element. There are no overarching themes, and the film has a very uncomplicated agenda - to entertain and deliver some solid action. It succeeds on those counts, and it is suitably fun to watch. If only it were an hour shorter.