Tony Scott’s ‘Unstoppable’ is genuine thrill ride with Denzel Washington

One has to give it to Tony Scott: He knows how to make a decent film. Crimson Tide, Enemy of the State and The Fan are still some of the best thrillers of the last 20 years.

Now comes another one of his collaborations with Denzel Washington, and what a combo they make. Unstoppable is pure popcorn fun. In some ways, it’s the perfect example of why we go to the movies. The characters are easy to like. The plot is simple enough, and the execution is perfect. Only Liam Neeson’s brilliant Taken comes to mind as a recent movie that delivers the goods in such a stellar manner.

Chris Pine (of Star Trek fame) and Washington play a pair of railroad employees. Will (Pine) is dealing with a difficult custody dispute over his children, while Frank (Washington) is dealing with a recent pink slip that came in the mail. At first, the two men seem quite the mismatched couple, but soon enough they grow to rely on each other like they never knew possible.

The premise of the story, which is apparently based on true events, deals with a bit of human error that leaves an enormous train barreling at full speed along the tracks of western Pennsylvania. The problem is that no one is at the helm; it’s a bona fide runaway train, and I have to believe they considered that as a title.

It’s up to Frank and Will, the railroad company’s last resorts, to catch the train and try to slow it down. If they fail, the lethal gallons of toxins on the train may spill and cause one of the worst disasters in Pennsylvania history.

Try not to think too much about the plot. It’s so convenient that it will begin to fall apart. Not only is it a runaway unmanned train, but it also has explosive toxins — I know it sounds ridiculous. But truly, in Scott’s skilled hands, Unstoppable is a thrill ride for its entire 100 minutes.

Mark Bomback wrote the script, but there’s not much to the dialogue. It’s all about the train from the beginning to the end. Rosario Dawson turns up as a side character as does Ethan Suplee (My Name is Earl), but the focus smartly stays on Frank and Will and, of course, that train.

Watch Unstoppable for a brief diversion. It’ll keep you on the edge of your seat.

By John Soltes / Publisher /

  • Unstoppable
  • 2010
  • Directed by Tony Scott
  • Written by Mark Bomback
  • Starring Denzel Washington, Chris Pine, Ethan Suplee and Rosario Dawson
  • Running time: 98 minutes
  • Rated PG-13 for sequences of action and peril, and some language
  • Rating: ★★★☆


John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at, among other publications. E-mail him at

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