Film » Screens

Train in Pain

Denzel Washington goes for another ride

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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. Ben Seresin’s cinematography creates a palpable sense of place with the rain-soaked rail yards of rural Pennsylvania, where a freight train is accidentally left unmanned and is now heading toward disaster. 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. --Pamela Zoslov

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