Movie Review - Unstoppable (***)

Unstoppable.  98 mins.  PG-13.  Directed by Tony Scott.  Written by Mark Bomback.  Starring Denzel Washington, Chris Pine, and Rosario Dawson.
This had the potential to be another runaway action success like Speed.  The set-ups are eerily similar - both have highly literal titles and plots that revolve around high-speed moving vehicles (here, it's a train) that can't stop.  Though Unstoppable has the added benefit of being based on a true story, it comes up short in the end due to the repetitive nature of its action sequences (the train keeps on moving - fast!) and merely serviceable performances from Denzel Washington and Chris Pine - both of whom look like they'd rather be elsewhere.
There was a great, spot-on parody of the movie on Saturday Night Live this weekend that nailed the dynamic between the two lead characters: one's old, one's new - but both will learn to begrudgingly accept one another by movie's end.  Nothing new there.  Tony Scott directs with his standard, in-your-face visual flair, but has thankfully shed some of the more obnoxious filmmaking tics on display in movies like Domino and Deja Vu.  Some of the control room sequences feel like leftovers from last year's Taking of Pelham 123 remake though.
On the plus side, the story is tightly plotted and it's never dull.  It rightly keeps the focus on the train and the people trying to stop it.  It's also nice to see Washington and Pine play real working class heroes, rather than action stars.  Sure, the movie takes some liberties with the facts - in reality, the train was only going 40mph; the movie kicks it up to 70mph.  There are also the typical cliches associated with this kind of film, particularly the character of the villainous corporate bigwig who values the financial bottom line over human safety.  Funny how a true story can be twisted on screen to feel so . . . fake.

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