Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Video review: "Unstoppable"

"Unstoppable" is an exercise in lean, efficient storytelling. This tale about a runaway train and the two men who set out to stop it won't win any awards for originality or sophistication. But as a straightforward story about workaday guys who become heroes, its nimbleness is unassailable.

Denzel Washington plays Frank Barnes, a veteran train engineer who, along with a bunch of other old-timers, is about to be forcibly retired by the company in favor of youngsters like Will Colson (Chris Pine). To add insult to injury, Frank's been assigned to train Will -- speeding up his own obsolescence.

Both have static in their private lives that intrudes on their work. Will's just had a major dust-up with his wife, leading to a separation and court appearance, while Frank, a widower, is laboring to stay connected with his quickly maturing teen daughters. Neither has much patience for guff their new partner.

Their simmering old-vs.-young enmity gets put on the back burner when a train containing explosive chemicals becomes a runaway, threatening to wipe out an entire city. Will and Frank first must dodge the speeding juggernaut, and then chase it down and stop it.

Screenwriter Mark Bomback and director Tony Scott know how to hit the action beats for maximum visceral impact, and how to capitalize off Washington's considerable onscreen magnetism. Frank's a bit gruff and grizzled, but audiences instinctively root for him.

Throw in a half-dozen distinctive supporting characters -- Rosario Dawson shines as the sensible dispatcher back at HQ, as does Lew Temple as an offbeat man-in-the-field -- and "Unstoppable" becomes an unspectacular but undeniably entertaining flick.

Like the movie itself, video extras are solid but not extravagant.

The DVD comes with a commentary track by Scott and "Tracking the Story," a featurette about script development.

On top of these, the Blu-ray also comes with several other features, including an anatomy of a derailment scene, stunt work, cast and crew comments and so on.

The Blu-ray also has a digital copy of the film.

Movie: 3 stars out of four
Extras: 3 stars

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