Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with a reader review from the strikingly named "Sheepfucker," the origin of which was too funny to redact from the submitted review, so you get the whole kit and caboodle. Sheepy's name might signify a certain type of review, but I found his write-up to be pretty damn entertaining and well-reasoned. Enjoy!
Harry, The one time I talked to you, years ago, I told you I was an Aggie and you immediately called me "Sheepfucker." Seems as good a handle as any should you find a use for the below. I was able to catch a public screening of Unstoppable on Saturday night. Some non-spoiler thoughts: Unstoppable I cannot be certain but I believe it was William Goldman (Princess Bride, Butch & Sundance, Marathon Man and a ton of others) that told the story of meeting with a real-life hero in a bar somewhere and hearing him retell his past glories. How he'd saved a woman and her children from a burning building. How he'd narrowly escaped death on several occasions. I forget the details but you get it: real-life hero stuff. Real drama. Real life-and-death. Goldman, or whomever it was, recalls at the end of their fascinating conversation of all the fireman had been through thinking to himself, "Tom Cruise does all this before breakfast." Real heroes don't necessarily make for good movie heroes. The rescue of one woman and her kids isn't enough to sustain a 90 minute story, so movie heroes do the "real stuff" in the first 15 minutes to establish the essential 'heroic-ness' of their character before moving on to a) experience a personal tragedy and b) save the entire friggin' world, or at bare minimum several thousand people by Act III. Unstoppable is no exception. Based loosely on the story of train #8888 that in 2001 rumbled through near 70 miles of Ohio with no one at the controls (while carrying a toxic liquid cargo). Train 8888 is the story of what didn't happen. Unstoppable is the story of what might have happened. The idea behind Unstoppable isn't your typical Hollywood fare. Freight trains aren't as sexy as F-14's, not as photogenic as space ships, and don't typically have turret-mounted guns that shoot Volkswagen-sized ammunition thereby achieving inherent awesomeness. Freight trains don't scream "movie." In the hands of anyone but shaky-cam messiah Tony Scott the movie probably would have turned out to be more boring than George Bush's sex life. You can thank me for the mental image I just generated later on. William Goldman (and I'm sure it was him this time) said that screenplays are structure, nothing else. Unstoppable has one glaring structural problem that will irritate people. We meet Chris Pine's new to the train business character in the first scene and Denzel Washington's experienced voice of wisdom character shortly thereafter. Both are established as Protagonists With Problems... Pine's marriage is in trouble and Washington's marriage is over, his relationship with a daughter is strained. None of which has much of anything to do with a runaway train. Their problems serve only one real purpose: give the characters something to talk about since the characters are given nothing at all to do. Indeed for the first 50 minutes as the mechanics of how this train came to be in this condition, and highlighting the danger it causes are illuminated over and over Scott keeps cutting back to Pine and Washington talking about their personal troubles. The high-dollar main characters with their faces on the one-sheets aren't even aware something's gone wrong. For 50 minutes. Death to any story, except Tony Scott's in charge here and he keeps the audience interested by having a million-or-so ton freight train run into a series of objects and destroy them. Thank god Michael Bay wasn't shooting this one or else the horse trailer that gets obliterated would have exploded like it was filled with T.N.T. instead of, ya know, hay and horse apples. Otherwise Unstoppable is pretty good popcorn fare, just make sure you turn off your brain before the lights go down. It's Tony Scott, so expect a lot of shaky-cam where it doesn't necessarily make sense. This is the man that made Man on Fire, the first film apparently shot exclusively during earthquakes. Overall the whole thing feels balanced, and I mean that in the very best of ways (huge props to the film's editor here). There's the "corporations are evil and would rather kill people than devalue their stock" theme, but it's not overplayed. There is shaky-cam, but not nearly so often as in Man on Fire. The protagonists have personal issues and while I question the point somewhat the quantity of those scenes isn't so excessive as to deter from the reason we came to see the movie, ie seeing a train flatten stuff. The train does indeed flatten and shatter various objects, but not nearly so much as in the Michael Bay version. Scott doesn't turn this into some sort of Jackass 4: The Train Skit (sit back and enjoy watching this freight train blow stuff up for 90 minutes until Johnny and the boys recover from their wounds!). Unstoppable could have been a far more boring film. Unfortunately had The Powers That Be given the 2 male leads some actions to perform in the first half of the film it could also have been much better. Overall: B+ solid but not great p.s. New trailers for "Battlefield L.A." and the long-delayed "Season of the Witch" were attached to the film.