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'Unstoppable' thrives on Washington's acting

Nov. 19, 2010

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Associated Press
Denzel Washington stars in from 20th Centruy Fox film "Unstoppable."

By Stori Long
Contributor

When an unmanned train "the size of the Chrysler building" carrying explosive material goes rogue, barreling at full speed on occupied train tracks through cities, who are you going to call? Denzel Washington, of course.

With his charmingly debonair ways and innate gift for redeeming any movie he is in, Washington helps to transform a movie with no real tangible plot into a fast-paced, tension-filled, enjoyable movie-experience.

The movie opens with the life of Will Coulson, portrayed by Chris Pine, who seems to almost reprise his role as the young, cocky captain of the Enterprise in the 2009 rendition of Star Trek, except he is now the young, cocky conductor of a freight train. Coulson is down-and-out, having been separated from his wife and kid because of various legal issues. His day is not improved when he is met by immediate hostility from the older workers, who take offense to a younger man invading their territory.

Washington plays Frank, a veteran train engineer, who is paired with Coulson on his first day. It does not take long for youth and experience to butt heads as the two take their first train ride together.

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to conductor and engineer, a series of unfortunate events led to the rogue train being unleashed.

After several failed attempts made by those in charge to stop the train, Coulson and Frank take things into their own hands in a harrowing attempt to chase the train down in reverse, hooking their train to the unmanned train and pull it back in the opposite direction before it reaches the highly populated town of Staton.

Their circumstances force both men to examine their own lives and priorities, and allows for a friendship of necessity to form between the seemingly opposite characters.

Everything about the movie is fairly predictable, with no great complexities or plot twists. However, the story is carried forward by compelling performances from Washington and Pine. It would be no easy feat for any actor to act alongside someone as talented as Washington, and Pine more than manages to hold his own.

Along with Washington and Pine, the movie has a fantastic supporting cast, namely Rosario Dawson who plays Connie, the senior train dispatcher, who serves as the liaison between headquarters and Pine and Washington. The movie itself is raw and vivid, a directing style Tony Scott has become known for with such movies as "Man on Fire," and serves to heighten the tension by making viewers feel as if the events were really unfolding right before their eyes. This is not a scary movie, but there are plenty of jumps and screams to be had thanks to the realistic filming and ever-mounting tension.

While I don't believe this movie will be generating Oscar buzz, it is what it is and it does what it does well. If you have the time, the money and all you want is a fast-paced action film, then "Unstoppable" will by no means disappoint.

Grade: B-