Unstoppable (Blu-ray + Digital Copy)
Directed by Tony Scott
Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 98 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Spanish, Portuguese
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish, Portuguese, others
MSRP: $ 39.99
Release Date: February 15, 2011
Review Date: February 14, 2011
Tony Scott’s Unstoppable is aptly named: a non-stop thrill ride with wall-to-wall action and good suspense though the ending is never much in doubt, and characterizations, as are typical for a story like this, are skin deep and overly predictable. But one doesn’t buy into a movie like this looking anything more than popcorn thrills, and that Unstoppable has.
When a lazy, overweight engineer (Ethan Suplee) hops off a train to take care of track switching assuming he’ll be able to jump back on as it coasts down the track, its automatic gears instead lock into a different forward position causing the engine and quite a few cars to begin building speed with no one in the cab to control it. Everything that track managers Oscar Galvin (Kevin Dunn) and his assistant Connie Hooper (Rosario Dawson) can think of to do to slow down the train or head it off before it nears more populated areas of southern Pennsylvania fails, and as the train hits speeds of more than seventy miles per hour, the only hope seems to be a lone engine manned by engineer Frank Barnes (Denzel Washington), a few days before his forced retirement, and rookie conductor Will Colson (Chris Pine). Both men are distracted by problems at home, but those troubles fade into insignificance as the runaway train barrels toward Scranton where their families live and where the train, carrying carloads of toxic chemicals and diesel fuel, will undoubtedly derail at an S-curve it can’t possibly maneuver at the speed it’s traveling.
Like in so many of Tony Scott's action thrillers, the plot moves forward, forward, forward, often at a breakneck pace. Rarely has Scott been accused of dawdling in his direction, and there’s certainly no lack of forward momentum in Unstoppable as the plot moves smoothly from one save attempt to the next without success. It’s clear that these are real trains and helicopters being manipulated through this thriller, not CGI-produced effects. There’s a monumental feeling of unsettling power in these massive heaps of metal careening down the tracks at great speed, and much like the thrillers of old, one fears very much for the safety of the actors and stunt people working with tons of potentially deadly force. Yes, there are a couple of moments that don’t ring quite true, when what we’re seeing doesn’t appear to be as difficult to work around as the on-screen narrators are insisting that it is, but for the most part, the story seems to be as possible as the opening title card suggests (“inspired by true events”). Scott beautifully masterminds the herculean efforts of combining the main story with its dozens of police, firemen, and rescue teams, the news groups covering it, and the command center where yardmasters frantically try to place oncoming train traffic out of harm’s way.
Unfortunately, the actors are stuck with rather cardboard characters to play. Denzel Washington’s Frank Barnes is the experienced engineer who can calculate in his head more accurately than any computer, makes call after call based on his expertise rather than what his bosses order him to do, and keeps a cool head under the tensest of conditions. Chris Pine plays the hot-headed rookie, squabbling with his wife via voice mail since she refuses to take his phone calls, all the while trying to do well on his first day on the job. He doesn’t make nearly the convincing blue collar worker that Washington essays, however. Rosario Dawson’s Connie Hooper has the most difficult job stuck in the command center trying to keep tension high while on the telephone; she does a more than credible job. Kevin Dunn is the usual blowhard executive who gives orders without taking into account the proficiency of the people underneath him. Lew Temple has a couple of fun scenes as grizzled old-timer Ned Oldham who’s in the right place at the right time.
The film is presented at its theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 and is offered in 1080p using the AVC codec. Sharpness, color saturation, and contrast are everything one would wish them to be though flesh tones tend to be on the brown side. There are no artifacts to spoil the pristine picture, and the crisp, widescreen cinematography is very close to reference quality. The film has been divided into 28 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is a superb effort with the fronts and rears alive with all manner of split surround effects, frequent use of sounds passing across and through the soundstage with the trains, helicopters, and automobiles speeding through the frame. The LFE channel is repeatedly used in the numerous crashes and explosions featured in the movie increasing the thrill ratio and maximizing the tension of this outstanding audio track. This is the very definition of a reference action movie soundtrack.
The audio commentary is another chatty one by director Tony Scott who has plenty to comment on during the film’s entire running time. Though you’ll hear many of the choicest comments repeated in the video bonus features elsewhere on the disc, fans of the film and/or the director will definitely want to give this a listen.
“Tracking the Story: Unstoppable Script Development” is a second commentary track featuring screenwriter Mark Bomback and director Tony Scott discussing the evolution of his script through numerous rewrites as the duo became more familiar with the world of railroading. The taped conversation has not been censored so all profanity remains “unbleeped.”
All of the video features are presented in 1080p.
“The Fastest Track: Unleashing Unstoppable” is a nicely paced making-of documentary featuring director Tony Scott, stars Denzel Washington, Chris Pine, Rosario Dawson, Ethan Suplee, writer Mark Bomback, and director of photography Ben Seresin (among others) discussing the thrills and dangers of the production. It runs 29 ¾ minutes.
“Derailed: Anatomy of a Scene” features producer Diane L. Sabatini, director Tony Scott, and special effects coordinator John Ziegler discussing how the derailing sequence in the movie will be accomplished using real materials in real time. It is then shown. It runs 10 minutes.
“Hanging off the Train: Stunt Work” is narrated by stunt supervisor Gary Powell as he discusses four specific scenes requiring stunt work and using stars Chris Pine and Denzel Washington as well as their stunt doubles. It runs 14 ½ minutes.
“On the Rails with the Director and Cast” is a conversation between director Tony Scott and his three top billed actors: Denzel Washington, Chris Pine, and Rosario Dawson talking about things they remember most about the filming. It runs 13 ½ minutes.
The film’s theatrical trailer runs 2 ½ minutes.
The disc offers preview trailers for Love and Other Drugs, Street Kings 2, Machete, Casino Jack, and 127 Hours.
BD-Live offers Live LookUp on the imdb along with the exclusive featurette “Feeling the Heat: Unstoppable Pyrotechnics” as the explosive scene with the derailed train is shown in a behind-the-scenes short that runs 3 minutes.
The second disc in the set is the digital copy with enclosed instructions for installation on Mac and PC devices.
4/5 (not an average)
A popcorn thriller definitely worth a look, Tony Scott’s Unstoppable comes to Blu-ray with excellent picture and sound and a nice selection of bonus material that extends interest in the production of the movie.