A storyline that sets a driverless train (a coaster) through the American wilds of Pennsylvania wreaking havoc as it thrashes through small towns, deserves praise for providing action without depending on break-neck speed.
One morning, as a 39-carriage 777 train is moved from its docking yard, its driver decides to leave the train to switch the track direction by hand. What results is that he neither gets to change the tracking in time, nor is able to then get back on the train, allowing it to run off at increasing speed. Cue veteran conductor Frank Barnes (Washington) and newly appointed rookie Will Colson (Pine) to pursue the train (backwards) in their older 1206 carriage, in an attempt to stop it.
The pace of the trains throughout is exhilarating and filmed with grace. Tony Scott plays out much of the characters' back stories as well as Barnes’ and Colson’s rookie vs. veteran tension to the backdrop of silently whizzing fields and corridors of trees. The backdrop and trains easily steal the show.
The action as well is a good romp with jump-stunts to and from carriages and cars, even if the constant unfolding of dangers around the train (the inevitable u-bend coming up on the line, the toxic cargo) as delivered by train manager Connie Hooper (Dawson) verges on slapstick, though her strategic battle against corporate management as the local expert is a wonderfully satisfactory two fingers to the corporate villain.
Washington is seamless as Barnes, a confident old-timer with a Samaritan's heart who guides the feisty and naive Colson through the perils they face in attempting to get their carriage hooked to the 777 and hit the breaks. Whilst Bomback has put enough in place to ensure the characters can facilitate the spectacle of a runaway train and the performances are spot on, it’s Scott’s ability to frame spark flooded wheels and set Washington running across the top of moving trains that makes this film endlessly watchable.
Unstoppable is an action film the kind of which is nearly gone. It doesn’t jump cut to infinity and its plot allows tension to fluidly build and escalate, making it an incredibly rewarding 90 minutes.
EXTRAS ★★★★ It's a Triple Play edition, so along with the Blu-ray disc you also get the film on DVD and a digital copy as well. The extras consist of an audio commentary with director Scott; plus three making-of featurettes - The Fastest Track: UNleashing Unstoppable (29:41), Derailed: Anatomy Of a Scene (10:01), Hanging Off The Train: Stunt Work (14:25); plus On The Rails, a conversation with cast members Washington, Pine and Dawson and director Scott (13:25); pus the theatrical trailer (2:26).