Monday, December 13, 2010

Unstoppable: The Movie that Never Ends (Get it?)

Friday night, I went to see Unstoppable. I didn't really want to, but a bunch of my friends were going (and you know I'm extremely socially dependent), so I sucked it up and drove across town. My last-ditch effort to convince our group to buy tickets to The Tourist was unsuccessful, but I was armed with sour gummy worms and ready for whatever sap this heroic and emotional movie was sure to throw at me.

The movie started off as expected, setting up for disaster with the train full of kindergarteners, the careless workers, and the witty, good-looking hero learning the ropes on his first day on the job. Even the "mentor" archetype appeared, right on schedule, in Denzel Washington's character. Are you excited yet?

The train inevitably leaves the station, no one at the controls, no air brakes, and in full throttle. I didn't know it yet, but that was probably the most suspenseful part of the whole movie. There is a very limited number of times you can build up to something that turns out not to be the climax before your audience loses interest. Suspense takes emotional investment, and after more than one disappointment, we stop investing. Unstoppable plateaus so many times I couldn't even tell you what the actual climax was. I don't think there was one.

In fact, the train of kindergarteners completely disappears from the story after the first thirty minutes or so. It seems to me they must have met with some tragic disaster separate from the unmanned train and no one noticed because all the policemen and media in the state were wholly consumed by the next impending anticlimax.

Because it was not what I expected, my initial reaction was pleasant surprise; it was not an overemotional tearjerker. The problem was, however, that it wasn't over-anything. It was just boring. And with a movie about an out-of-control train (oh yeah, it's also carrying hazardous materials, in case your snorkel was still above all the clich├ęs) barreling forward at seventy miles an hour, it seems to me it took the director a conscious effort to disappoint. So, if that was the case, congratulations Tony Scott, you succeeded.


  1. love the snorkel reference! Should we buy the movie?

  2. Did we see the same movie? It was a nail-biter! An edge-of-the-seater! An eye-widening white knuckler! A bottom lip biting spine tingler! What I can't wait for is the book, and subsequent movie, about the Chilean mine rescue. Imagine the dialogue as men find themselves and search their souls a mile underground. We went to see Fair Game last weekend. I want to hear you review THAT one. I kept asking, "Where's the car chases?" "How come nobody got shot?"
    You are right about the kids, though. They were there one minute... the director setting us up for the drama of dramas ... and then nothing! What's up with THAT? I think it's a generation thing, Raz... our generation, you know, the one who grew up with black and white TV... is just more easily entertained. Well written. love the "mentor" and the "snorkle" line! I el-oh-elled.