Watching Tony Scott’s Unstoppable
makes you empathize with the 1896 audience that supposedly fled their seats after seeing a train barreling down the screen at them. There’s something profoundly terrifying about the image of a speeding train, especially one, like in Unstoppable
, that’s unmanned and carrying combustible chemicals. Scott has been down this path before: His 2009 remake of the subway thriller The Taking of Pelham 123
also starred Denzel Washington as a train-rescuing hero. Given the hackneyed theme, Unstoppable
is surprisingly effective. Washington plays a veteran engineer (facing forced retirement – of course) who teams up with (of course) a cocky young rookie, played by Chris Pine. They put aside their bickering to undertake a superhuman act of heroism. Both men get a perfunctory backstory, but the focus is almost entirely on the runaway train, a striking thing to watch and an appropriate metaphor for our reckless times. Action impresario Scott gets no love as a director, but he knows this much: what thrilled moviegoers more than a century ago still works today.