Unstoppable was my first full dose of Tony Scott’s talent.
My childhood memories of Top Gun remain hazy at best, and I still consider True Romance a Quentin Tarantino picture. Unstoppable, though—Unstoppable was my first real taste of the director’s vision on the big screen… and it left me hungry for more.
The trailers prepared me for something bloated, something noisy, something dumb. Style over substance. The anti-Ridley. But, to my pleasant surprise, the film delivered something more emotionally satisfying, something more authentic. The setup does strain credulity somewhat: through a series of unfortunate mishaps, accidents, and oversights, a freight train loaded with hazardous materials ends up speeding full-throttle towards a heavily populated area. As these events escalate, however, a quieter, seemingly unrelated narrative thread—Chris Pine’s disastrous first day on the job as a conductor, overseen by no-nonsense engineer Denzel Washington—unfolds, lending Scott’s world more credibility, more realism. The chemistry between the two actors establishes their characters as semi-troubled everymen, about as far from “action hero” material as you can get in a Hollywood thriller. When the two plots inevitably collide, forcing these ordinary men to meet an extraordinary challenge head on, this carefully-laid foundation of drama helps raise the stakes, more meaningfully engaging the viewer.
Unstoppable’s energetic visual style and near-flawlessly-structured storytelling merely whet my appetite; as I left the screening, I was already counting the days until Scott’s next cinematic joyride. Sadly, that day will never arrive. My first theatrical adventure through Tony Scott’s imagination will forever be my last.