This is the space where I would normally go into some long-winded intro that drops hints at the plot and sets the tone for the rest of the piece. For “Unstoppable,” I don’t have to do that for one simple reason: Denzel Washington. Why do I say that? Allow me to answer that question with a question: Name a movie starring Denzel Washington that was outright terrible? (“The Preacher’s Wife” doesn’t count — that’s Disney, and even if it did count, it really wasn’t that bad). While you’re thinking, I will proceed.
From director Tony Scott (“Man on Fire”), “Unstoppable” is loosely based on the “Crazy Eights” incident in 2001 where an unmanned train ran amok in Northwest Ohio until a brave engineer jumped aboard, literally, and brought it under control. Denzel Washington plays Frank Barnes, the old and crusty veteran train engineer. Chris Pine (“Star Trek”) plays the young, cocky upstart Will Gordon who reluctantly is placed under Barnes’ wing. The standard old-young male bonding ensues when disaster strikes: Radio dispatcher Connie Hooper, played by Rosario Dawson, finds a runaway unmanned train — described as a missile the size of the Chrysler Building with no air brakes — barreling through the quiet towns of Appalachian Pennsylvania with hazardous and lethal chemicals aboard. That’s bad enough, but here’s your twist: A train with 30-plus schoolchildren are on a train on the same track, and it’s coming right for them. Cue Barnes and Noble — I mean Barnes and Gordon — to swing into action, by attempting to play chicken with said missile to get it under control.
Remember at the top of the piece, I challenged you to find a movie Denzel Washington starred in and was grossly bad? Have you found one yet? I didn’t really think you would, so we’ll take his credentials as read. Chris Pine continues to surprise me. When he was cast as Captain Kirk, I thought that a) he was going to completely wreck the role and b) he didn’t have the acting chops, and was just another Shia LeBoeuf, et al, cutout. “Star Trek” allayed my fears about point a, and from what I can see of him in this trailer, he’s well on his way to resolving point b. He’s just cocky and noble enough to make this work. I also think that of all the actors in Hollywood that he should look up to as a mentor, Denzel is the most promising one, solely because no matter the role, he puts it down hard. If you need another reason to see this: ladies, it’s Denzel and Chris Pine; gentlemen, Rosario Dawson looks GOOD.
All in all, “Unstoppable” looks to be a solid movie. Is it worth a $9 movie ticket? Unlikely, but then very few movies are, at least according to my standards. I’d definitely put $6 on it for a matinee, stream it on Netflix or go to a Red Box and I certainly would watch it when it comes to FX or TNT (most likely FX).
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