Movies: Unstoppable * * * *
(12A, general release)
Tony Scott, younger brother of Ridley, has made some pretty ropey films in his time, and the likes of Déjà Vu and Beverly Hills Cop II should not be approached lightly by the sensitive viewer.
Sometimes, though, when all the cards fall right, Scott's style can turn into an irresistible and hugely entertaining juggernaut, and such is the case here.
Loosely based on a true story, Unstoppable follows the trail of disaster left by a runaway train that zooms driver-less through a densely populated area of Pennsylvania.
Marking his fifth collaboration with Scott, Denzel Washington plays Frank Barnes, a veteran railway engineer on the Allegheny and West Virginia Railroad, who at the start of his shift is teamed with an edgy rookie called Will Colson (played by Chris Pine).
Colson is connected with the family who own the company and, as he and Barnes set out on a cargo train together, the atmosphere is decidedly frosty. Meanwhile, in a nearby railyard, two bozos who are moving an 800-metre-long freight train leave the cabin for a moment and the thing takes off across open country.
To make matters worse, it's carrying a load of highly combustible chemicals, and several attempts to stop it have come to naught. But Barnes has a brainwave and decides to try racing after the train, attaching their engine to the rear of it and pulling against it in the hope of slowing it down. It's a desperate measure, but Barnes is now a man with a mission, and in Colson he has a surprisingly willing accomplice.
The simpler the premise in a straight action picture the better, and you don't get much simpler than a hurtling train. Washington is as smoothly charismatic as ever, and Chris Pine has star quality in spades.
It sounds dumb, and in a way it is, but Unstoppable is superbly paced, handsomely made and the most enjoyable action film I've seen this year.