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Unstoppable is a drama about a runaway train carrying a cargo of toxic chemicals. Pits an engineer and his conductor in a race against time. They're chasing the runaway train in a separate locomotive and need to bring it under control before it derails on a curve and causes a toxic spill that will decimate a town.
For more about Unstoppable and the Unstoppable Blu-ray release, see Unstoppable Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on February 15, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Denzel Washington, Chris Pine, Rosario Dawson, Ethan Suplee, Kevin Dunn, Kevin Corrigan
Director: Tony Scott
» See full cast & crew
Unstoppable Blu-ray Review
The Tony Scott engine that could.
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, February 15, 2011
As the director of big-budget, highly commercial action fare—from Top Gun and Enemy of the State to Man on Fire and Déjà Vu—Tony Scott may not be an artist or auteur, but he's certainly one hell of a craftsman. One of the characters in Scott's new film, Unstoppable, has a catchphrase that sums up the British director well: "It's all about precision." And indeed, Scott's movies seem less handmade than laser-guided and machine-tooled, factory-assembled from the raw cinematic essentials. His stories are streamlined, with characters defined in three traits or less and kept in constant motion, jumpstarted by rapid series of events and propelled by Scott's characteristically breakneck camera movements. In Unstoppable, the director has constructed what might be his purest, most efficient action movie yet. The plot can be summed up in three short sentences. 1.) There is a train. 2.) It seems to be unstoppable. 3.) Our heroes have to stop it. Does it get any simpler than that?
The rest is just details. Eager to get on to the full-steam-ahead action, Scott and screenwriter Mark Bomback lay the story's tracks quickly. Conductor-in-training Will Colson (Star Trek's Chris Pine) isn't having the best week. He recently separated from his wife (Jessy Schram), he misses his kid, and when he shows up for his first day at the Alleghany and West Virginia Railroad, the veteran engineers instantly hate him. He's the green, young, unionized new guy—the nephew of the company president—and they're all about to be forced into early retirement. So it goes. Will is paired with longtime railroader Frank Barnes (Denzel Washington), a single dad with two college-aged daughters—who work at Hooters, no less—and a no-nonsense pragmatist with one rule: "If you're gonna do something, do it right. If you don't know how to do something, you ask me." Washington is dependable in his usual "highly skilled everyman" role, and while Pine has yet to develop a real screen presence, he's good as the straight-man to Denzel's naturally attention-grabbing charisma. It's a classic odd-couple, buddy-film setup—unbeknownst to these two head-butting, mutually reluctant coworkers, they're about to be thrown into a survival scenario that will test their collective mettle and turn them into unlikely friends.
On the other side of the state, an incompetent railyard hostler (My Name Is Earl's Ethan Suplee) accidentally sends an unmanned, half- mile-long freight train barreling down the main line at full throttle. But wait, there's more. The airbrakes have been disconnected, eight of the tanker cars are carrying highly explosive molten phenol, and the train is chugging at 70mph toward the town of Stanton, Pennsylvania, where an elevated curve in the track—smartly located immediately over a fuel depot, of course—will cause an almost certain derailment and potentially town- obliterating explosion. As one character exclaims with breathless hyperbole, "We're not just talking about a train. We're talking about a missile the size of the Chrysler Building." And just when we think things can't possibly get any more ridiculously dangerous, we learn that this out-of-control- volatile-skyscraper-on-wheels is also rocketing headlong towards a passenger train carrying 150 field-tripping grade school kids. The purpose of their field trip? To learn about train safety, naturally. Oh, the irony.
In an attempt to keep the film from seeming too linear—this is, after all, a literally one-track story—Scott covers the ongoing action from several angles. We go inside the railroad equivalent of mission control, where yardmaster Connie Hooper (Rosario Dawson) makes a lot of desperate phone calls while a federal inspector (Kevin Corrigan) looms over her shoulder. Periodically, we pop into the plush railroad company boardroom to see Connie's supervisor, Oscar Galvin (Kevin Boss), sweat bullets and give updates to his boss, a corporate prick who's too busy with his golf game to care about the lives at stake. (After the big BP disaster last summer, the film has timely themes of money-grubbing corporate indifference.) In Tony Scott's typical media-obsessed fashion, we also fly over the scene in news helicopters, broadcasting live, as-it-happens coverage of the events below. I won't get into the details of how Will and Frank attempt to stop the track-bound behemoth, but let's just say there's lots of well- researched technical jargon, much speculation on whether it'll all work, and more close shaves than a particularly busy barbershop.
A cursory glance over the film's bullet points—runaway train, explosive chemicals, working class protagonists—may call to mind masterful cinematic antecedents like Buster Keaton's locomotive-centric The General or Henri-Georges Clouzot's nitroglycerine nail-biter Wages of Fear, but Unstoppable is little more than Grade-A, big-budget action, with little in the way of lasting significance. The characters are thinly drawn, the underlying motivations are exceedingly simple, and there's not much here that could be deemed substance. Sure, you could read the train as a metaphor for the recent economic recession threatening to destroy small-town American life, but I think we could all agree that's a bit of a stretch. That said, the film knows exactly what it is, and Tony Scott delivers what his audience expects—a tense, edge-of-your-seat experience that rarely relents. A horse trailer stuck on the track is reduced to a twisted hunk of metal. A cop car trying to keep up spins out and flips in endless barrel rolls. Will dangles precariously, Frank hops from freight car to freight car, and Scott's camera captures it all in ever-careening swoops and revolutions. As the film can't keep still for more than a few seconds at a time—quick cutting is another Scott staple—Unstoppable proves to be an apt title. By the ticket, take the ride, I say, but make sure you've got some popcorn to enjoy with this one—even if you leave with your brain empty, at least your stomach will be full.
Unstoppable Blu-ray, Video Quality
Visually, Tony Scott has toned down since the wild, cross-processed cinematography of Domino, but he's still known for images that are sharp, grainy, and super-saturated. Unstoppable is no exception. The film's 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer looks fantastic. Let's start with the stylized color palette, home to dense, vivid primaries—see the cherry-red of the runaway train, the wasp-yellow of Will's vest, the intense blue of the engine in pursuit—and punchy, carefully sculpted contrast, founded on rock-bottom black levels and bright-but-rarely-overblown highlights. And then we have the near-constant sense of clarity, rendering fine textures like facial hair, pores, and the weft of Frank's knit cap with exemplary definition. All of this is covered in a thin layer of rich, warm, naturally filmic grain. There are no signs of DNR and while some outlines look a bit edgy, there's no overt haloing or ringing. The only thing keeping the picture quality from perfect marks are a few instances of mild aliasing and shimmer—nothing you'd ever really notice without going out of your way to look for it.
Unstoppable Blu-ray, Audio Quality
It should be no surprise that Unstoppable features a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track that kicks all kinds of ass. This is, after all, a film that features lots of big noisy machines making big noisy noises. Helicopters swoop seamlessly between channels, pickup trucks with throaty engines roar across the soundfield, overheated wheels shriek and spark with iron-on-iron intensity, and cop cars wreck in metal-crunching rollovers. And then you have the quieter—but still loud—sounds, like the near-constant rat-a-tat-tat of trains rolling across the tracks, grain seeds from a demolished freight car blowing in every direction, and other tone-establishing atmospherics. The sound design is simply beefy, brutal, and impeccably detailed, with a broad dynamic range that covers the spectrum from gut-rumbling LFE-heavy explosions to high-end metal-rending screeches with both clarity and oomph. Harry Gregson-Williams' propulsive score rounds out the mix, and dialogue hovers over it all, clear and comprehensible throughout, except where it's intentionally overshadowed by the surrounding action. The film was nominated for a Best Sound Editing Oscar this year, and it totally deserves it.
Unstoppable Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Unstoppable Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Ever-so-loosely "Inspired by Real Events" that occurred in Ohio in 2001, Unstoppable is a man versus machine action epic that rapidly builds momentum and, once at top speed, rarely slows. It may be instantly forgettable after it's all over, but the ride is definitely worth it. I'd suggest a rental, but if you're the sort who's easily swayed to a purchase by a terrific A/V presentation, Fox's frequently stunning Blu-ray might convince you to add Unstoppable to your collection.
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Unstoppable Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Blu-ray Sales, Feb.14-20: Unstoppable Is No. 1 - February 24, 2011
Unstoppable was the top-selling title on Blu-ray during the week ended February 20, according to Nielsen VideoScan.The latest Tony Scott/Denzel Washington team-up got 36% of its total sales from its BD version. In a week with hardly any major new releases, the ...
• This Week on Blu-ray - February 15-21 - February 15, 2011
It is not uncommon for directors to have favorite actors, but it is a bit unique for a director to use the same lead actor three films in a row. Of course, that is exactly what director Tony Scott has pulled off with his favorite actor Denzel Washington for their ...
• Unstoppable Announced on Blu-ray - January 13, 2011
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has officially announced Unstoppable for Blu-ray release on February 15. A Digital Copy will be included. Tony Scott and Denzel Washington team up once again for an action thriller, this time centered on a runaway freight train ...
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