“Unstoppable,” the new true-life drama from Denzel Washington and “Star Trek” star Chris Pine is a heavy metal movie. It’s a story about 10,000,000 pounds of screeching, screaming metal careening out of control through the Pennsylvania countryside. No, it’s not the Mötley Crüe northeastern reunion tour, it’s about a runaway train and two brave men who bring the beast to a stop.
Story wise “Unstoppable” is pretty high concept. Due to human error (or perhaps just plain laziness) an unmanned half-a-mile long string of trains loaded with hazardous materials is let loose, barreling along the main rail track toward Stanton, Pennsylvania. It is, essentially, a missile the size of the Chrysler Building. Along the way it plays chicken with a trainload of kids and Denzel. Can they stop it before it causes a huge environmental catastrophe? Only Denzel knows… and he’s only half-way sure.
It doesn’t take long to identify “Unstoppable” as a Tony Scott movie. There’s his favorite star, Denzel, endlessly swirling cameras and about 75 edits per minute.
With the exception of Denzel, his trademarks have occasionally overwhelmed his movies. His high sense of style has frequently come before good old solid storytelling but with “Unstoppable” there isn’t much story to overpower so his wild flourishes really carry the day. The giant set pieces involving the train and the various attempts to stop it are exciting, edge-of-your-seat sequences. Add in Denzel playing a riff on his now patented old pro on the job / hero role (the one he’s been perfecting in movies like “Inside Man” and “The Taking of Pelham 1,2,3) and some good charismatic work from Chris Pine and you have a fun Saturday afternoon matinee movie.