Tony Scott seemed to specialise in loud, bombastic, high octane action films. He was the master of the hi-tech set piece. His body of work succinctly encapsulated what commercial Hollywood is about. Why understate, when you can overstate. Why circumnavigate, when you can blow it up. Why talk when, you can shout. Yet despite these qualities, he often managed to walk the fine line between entertainment and sensory overload. Through strong casting and hardboiled yet dry screenplays, his overblown tales were frequently engaging and would prove a hit with both the audience and critics alike. It’s quite an achievement to when you think about, maintaining commercial success and retaining public goodwill.
So, bearing this in mind, I decided to watch Unstoppable, the last movie that Scott directed. We can dispense with a detailed plot analysis of Unstoppable. This is a runaway train movie. Every cliché you can think off associated with this situation and the disaster genre per se, is thrown into the mix. Chris Pine and Denzel Washington play the blue-collar heroes. It is the standard sensei and pupil relationship. Kevin Dunn is the corporate lickspittle for the train owners. Rosario Dawson, the feisty rail traffic controller. Shame they couldn't work Helen Hayes in somewhere. Breaks slip, trains race out of control, shouting ensues. It’s all exactly as you’d expect and what modern budgets and contemporary FXs will allow.
It serves no purpose to start picking holes in the plot, which are numerous. This is Hollywood and therefore the screenplay is not designed to be scrutinised rigorously. The film is allegedly based on real life events, but the similarity ends at the inclusion of a train and two members of staff. Beyond that, it all comes down to artistic license. Why have a rigorous, character driven narrative when you can drive a train into every conceivable obstacle imaginable. Such as other trains, fuel storage depots, school kids, the disabled, kittens. Okay it's not quite as bad as that but you get the idea. Of course, all of these threats result in people shouting at each other. Nothing telegraphs danger, angst and conflict more than raised voices. Right?
I'm sure it comes as no surprise to you, that it all ends as one would expect. Why wouldn't it? It would be box office suicide with this sort of product to spring some sort of left field plot device in the final act. Furthermore, the film does not out stay its welcome. The navigate their way through their performances with ease and are still good for this sort of film. Let's face it, Denzel Washington is seldom bad. So, in a nutshell, Unstoppable is the cinematic equivalent to a can of Red Bull. It's fine in small doses and provides a superficial, exhilarating jolt. There's nothing wrong with that, although I wouldn't want it all the time. I couldn't cope with all the shouting and I’m sure I’d go deaf in the long run.