“It’s not a train—it’s a missile the size of the Chrysler building!” cries Rosario Dawson’s harried railroad manager. How you take that line, or if you can even believe that Roasario Dawson would ever end up as a harried railroad manager, will dictate how you’ll feel about Tony Scott’s Unstoppable. It’s a gleefully preposterous, slickly engineered machine without a thought in its head besides entertaining you for 98 minutes. I had fun.
Denzel Washington’s last team-up with director Scott was last year’s unfortunate The Taking Of Pelham 1-2-3 remake, which was basically a lot of people cursing on walkie-talkies in an immobile subway train. Unstoppable, as you might be able to tell from the title, heads in the exact opposite direction, pitting Denzel and the new Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) in a battle of wills against a conductor-free choo-choo running 70 miles an hour … and over-loaded with toxic chemicals, to boot.
Washington’s the grizzled vet staring down forced retirement, yet still all-knowing in the ways of locomotives. Pine’s his new, wet-behind-the-ears partner, making up in moxie what he lacks in know-how. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a movie before, but (SPOILER!) at first these two don’t like each other very much, but eventually they become friends.
Based on what we’re told are actual events that one can only presume have been exaggerated beyond all plausibility, Unstoppable is refreshing for its lack of a villain. There’s just one big speeding train and two movie stars trying to slow it down. It’s quite a nice change of pace to see logistical problems and physics dilemmas in lieu of shootouts, while Washington and Pine ease back and coast on formidable charisma.
This is Denzel’s fifth picture with Tony Scott, and they’ve locked into such a comfortable rapport that by now all the actor needs to do is relax and let his sly gravitas do all the work. Pine, so swaggeringly wonderful in last year’s Star Trek, holds his own against an icon. This kid is the real deal. Scott handles the delirious nonsense with a comical number of swooping helicopter shots and irrepressible forward momentum. It’s fast, silly and incredibly amusing, if you’re in the right mood.