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Please stop Unstoppable

By Anthony Lauriello     11/18/10 6:00pm

The opening scene of director Tony Scott's (The Taking of Pelham 123) Unstoppable sets everything up to be good. The camera makes menacing, sudden cuts, foreboding music plays in the background and the text ominously scrolls on the screen. The terrifying subject of this opening: trains. Yes, trains. It was at this point of the movie I should have gotten up and left. But I stayed, and the only thing that helps me sleep at night is the idea that if my review prevents just one person from seeing this unbelievably terrible piece of trash, then I have done some good in the world.

The movie's plot, which is very loosely based on a 2001 incident, concerns a runaway train loaded with toxic chemicals. After an incompetent and corpulent worker (Ethan Suplee, "My Name is Earl") lets the train get away from him at a northern Pennsylvanian rail yard, the chase is on to stop the train from going off the elevated curve in populated Stanton, Pa.

After several half-brained attempts fail, it comes to two men, the young and inexperienced Will Colson (Chris Pine, Star Trek) and the grizzled veteran engineer Frank Barnes (Denzel Washington, American Gangster) to stop what is at one point of the movie described as a missile the size of the Chrysler building.



During all of this, the movie juxtaposes the glory and joy of blue-collar work with the evil of boardroom corporatism for an untimely message in this period of economic turmoil. Furthermore, Colson somehow resolves issues with his estranged wife, even though the couple never actually interact. Unlike most "action" movies, there is no plot twist, villain or really any action. It is like the '90s classic Speed, but with even more scenes of public transportation and without any of the good parts.

The acting in the movie is standard for an action movie. Washington and Pine do their best with the ridiculous script, delivering such mockable lines as, "We're going to run this bitch down."

Rosario Dawson (Seven Pounds), who plays rail yard operator Connie, has the weakest performance, but due to the other far more salient problems in the movie, it is hardly noticeable. The cinematography and camerawork are outrageously overdone, with jaunty cut shots and shaky angles. This happens in every single scene, including times when it is completely inappropriate.

The true problems of Unstoppable go deeper then the atrocious cinematography. Unlike most movies, action movies can succeed with terrible acting and ridiculous plot holes. While some of the great films of the genre aspire to be true art, most of the great action movies aspire simply to entertain. They take our mind off the world as we listen to preposterous dialogue and watch things explode.

Unstoppable does not only have one of the most boring subject matters ever used in a movie, it also takes itself completely seriously. It is an action movie that is as fun as watching trains on a track or learning about industrial accidents and safety procedures. Or, to put it in other words, Unstoppable is absolutely no fun at all. While its other problems may have been forgivable, this is unpardonable for the genre. When walking out of the theater, my British suitemate said the movie made him doubt the entire collective intelligence of America.

I found myself forced to agree.



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