Unstoppable (Blu-ray)

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Unstoppable (Blu-ray)

In this action thriller from director Tony Scott, rookie train operator Will, STAR TREK's Chris Pine and grizzled veteran engineer Frank, Denzel Washi...

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Review of "Unstoppable (Blu-ray)"

published 30/03/2011 | Kev_The_Blu-Ray_Reviewer
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Unstoppable (Blu-ray)

Unstoppable (Blu-ray)


Title: Unstoppable
Director: Tony Scott
Starring: Denzel Washington, Chris Pine, Rosario Dawson
Length: 1 hr 38 mins
Rating: 12
Released: March 28th, 2011


When a less-than-attentive engineer (Ethan Suplee, lovable in TV’s My Name is Earl, just plain dozy here) is told to move train 777 he does so but without the thought to set up the air brakes properly. He’s only moving it into a siding so he doesn’t think it matters. He jumps down to pull a lever and switch the tracks to guide the train in the right direction but he makes a mistake and the train pulls slowly away onto the main line. No need to panic – it’s just a ‘coaster’. Or is it? The throttle has jerked out of neutral and 777 is powering up. Minutes later it’s hitting 70mph and heading for populated towns and, just to make things even worse, it’s carrying hazardous materials. 777 is the star of the movie. A behemoth of a train, over half a mile long, painted in fierce red and yellow.

Will Colson (Chris Pine, Star Trek) is a yellow coat, just out of his training period. He has apparently got his first job as a conductor through nepotism. Frank Barnes (Denzel Washington, Man on Fire) has been working the railroad for 28 years but is being forced into early retirement, on half benefits, and is currently working his final notice. His wife died of cancer four years ago and now he looks after his two teenage daughters who are working their way through college waitressing at Hooters. These two normal guys are put into an extraordinary situation and pushed to their very limits to ultimately become heroes.

Back at the station, yard master, Connie Hooper (Rosario Dawson) is head of dispatch and operations. This is where the other half of the story plays out. Hooper reports to the railroad's corporate offices where an executive (Kevin Dunn) is already considering an attempt to derail 777. Dawson puts in an excellent performance. Despite being in the station yard she is able to maintain the sense of fear. Her performance is particularly impressive because it would have been very easy for her scenes to have fallen flat against the action scenes involving the train chase. But as the action inter-cuts between the railway chase and the station yard none of the tension is lost.


Director Tony Scott is usually someone that I would accuse of having a crazy attitude towards film direction and editing. The 66 year old British director normally can’t refrain from employing a frankly preposterously bombastic style of direction, featuring dizzying edits and louder than necessary soundtracks. But here his idiosyncratic shooting and editing style really works. The movie is high-energy just like the director himself. Scott likes bold, strong imagery and he certainly puts it on display here. There is lots of camera movement and the camera placement is also of paramount importance. It’s also testimony to Scott’s directorial and editing abilities that he has been able to ensure that the film has accurate continuity.

As things get out of control, the tension mounts brilliantly, and where some directors might ultimately squander an expert build-up Scott manages to progress from the slow build-up scenes through to a number of astonishing sequences and striking set-pieces mid-way through to come to a satisfying conclusion at the end. And although the movie has little in the way of narrative surprises it is still engaging throughout.


Unstoppable is shot in what is effectively real-time, which meant that the pacing had to be perfect, and it is, at 94 minutes the film packs in emotion, drama and action. It begins slowly, as people turn up to work and are met with every day situations. Slowly the situation turns into something much more dangerous and the tension begins to build. Scott ratchets up the tension as the train picks up speed and as more people are put in harms way.

Overhead news helicopters follow all of the action, feeding back to their stations and appearing live on TV. It’s a wonderful device and the aerial photography is simply stunning as it tracks 777 through the countryside. It’s a smart double use of these helicopters as they follow the train reporting on the incident as part of the movie whilst they also shoot the movie. As the action follows 777 it heads towards the elevated curve of Stanton. The sequence of 777 going through this curve is a mid-film action-packed highlight.


Unstoppable is scripted by Mark Bomback (Live Free or Die Hard). His style clearly fits well with that of director Scott and the story despite being centred upon the action of an unstoppable train that is out of control and extremely dangerous, barrelling along a stretch of rural Pennsylvania, it is actually a character driven story. Unlike other action movies, Unstoppable has real characters, based on real people. The characters have genuine emotions, believable families and personalities. They are ordinary people, thrown into an extraordinary situation.


It’s clear that Scott was committed to making a film that looked and felt very realistic and that everything on screen was within the laws of physics and reality. Therefore the vast majority of filming was done ‘in camera’ without the use of CGI or green screen. It is evident when watching the film as it’s clear that the actors are doing a lot of their own stuntwork. As the actors are really on a moving train it gives the film a sense of realism. Never is this more evident than when another train that has been sent to stop the 777 is derailed early in the movie. Because Scott used a real train and physically derailed it and blew it up the scene feels very organic and real. Despite how difficult it must have been to produce this shot it works brilliantly. The crash is real, and as the locomotive falls onto its side and explodes spectacularly, you can feel that it’s real.


Unstoppable looks and sounds amazing on Blu-ray. The colours are bright and bold. The transfer is highly detailed and looks very natural indeed. The sound is loud and aggressive with deep rumbles and explosions but also perfectly clear dialogue. It will certainly give all of your 5.1 speakers a good workout.


There are plenty of special features, including two very interesting commentary tracks. The first is Tony Scott covering off lots of technical details and discussing how the film was shot, edited and produced. It’s so detailed that it’s a sort of mini directors masterclass in itself.

The second commentary discusses the script with Tony Scott and writer Mark Bomback both having their say on the screenwriting process. This was of real interest to me as I find the whole idea of writing a screenplay very interesting.

There are also four featurettes, each of which is nicely put together. There is some overlap between them but there is also a decent amount of cast and cast involvement as they discuss the film and impart thoughts and opinions of the filming process. It is often the case that these featurettes rely a little too heavily on clips from the film, meaning that what we actually get here is a series of extended trailers, but this is not the case here. These featurettes are actually worth watching.


Unstoppable, as a film and as a Blu-ray package, is a well-oiled machine – a white-knuckle, rollercoaster ride. Scott’s high production values plus a fast-moving story and high-calibre performances from the lead trio of stars make Unstoppable well worth pencilling into your movie watching timetable.

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Comments on this review

  • Mickie26 published 05/06/2011
    Exceptional film review. Really well written.
  • sghawken published 22/05/2011
    I really enjoyed this movie, great review
  • MrBrightside1987 published 15/05/2011
    Loved this film, A fantastic review definitely E worthy. Be back later.
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Product Information : Unstoppable (Blu-ray)

Manufacturer's product description

In this action thriller from director Tony Scott, rookie train operator Will, STAR TREK's Chris Pine and grizzled veteran engineer Frank, Denzel Washington learn that a runaway train carrying carloads of dangerous chemicals is headed for Will's small Pennsylvania hometown, where his wife and young daughter live. In order to save the day, they must figure out how to catch up to the rogue engine, and stop it before harm comes to the town. Standing in their way is Galvin, Kevin Dunn, the head of the company who is more interested in saving the stock price than lives. On the plus side, co-starring, the duo have competent corporate employee Connie, Rosario Dawson on the radio, talking them through their various attempts to corral and then stop the potentially lethal train. DIE HARD 4.0’s Mark Bomback provides the script for the 20th Century Fox Production.


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