NEW YORK (CBS) Sit back, relax and enjoy as Denzel Washington and Chris Pine take you on the ride of a lifetime.
Washington and director Tony Scott re-team once again in 20th Century Fox's runaway train adventure, "Unstoppable."
The pair, who have collaborated together on four other films, are back on track after last year's "The Taking of Pelham 123" with an adrenaline-infused blue collar action-drama that will keep you on the edge of your seats. Given the pair's previous average opening weekends at the box-office and the star power of co-star Chris Pine, look for "Unstoppable" to debut at around the $20 million mark.
Inspired by actual events, Scott has created layered characters that are very real people that everyone can relate to, who find themselves thrown into a situation that seems plausible - a runaway freight train carrying hazardous cargo.
Both Washington and Pine have an easy, comfortable chemistry and the scenes where the two of them create a back and forth dialogue are wonderful, entertaining interludes from the nonstop action swirling. Where the story asks the audience to take a leap of faith is in the completely off-the-wall response these two "ordinary" working guys take to avert disaster.
Scenes where a close-to-retirement-aged Washington is running atop a runaway train speeding at a rate of over 70 mph are exhilarating to watch, but it's clear the director was not going for believable when it came to envisioning the action sequences. Once you get over that slight hiccup, there is no derailing from going the distance and investing yourself totally in these characters and their high octane stunts that deliver, without any distraction, all the action and thrills you could want.
Frank Barnes (Washington) is a pro. He's a veteran train engineer who has been on the job for 28 years and knows everything there is to know about the trains he moves. He's also a father of two college-age girls who part-time at Hooters and who has recently lost his wife to cancer. Will Colson (Pine) is a newbie conductor, who fresh out of training, finds himself assigned to work with Barnes his first day on the job. Considered a threat to older union train workers because of his youth and family's political connections, he immediately receives the cold shoulder from his fellow colleagues at the train yard. But that doesn't bother him as much as the problems he has in his personal life - he has been court-ordered to stay away from his wife and young child and is in the middle of a difficult legal battle to win visitation rights.
A couple of shortcuts on the part of an engineer to get his boss off his back leads to a train carrying highly hazardous, inflammable cargo being deemed a "coaster". With no one on board, the high speed train becomes, in essence, a deadly missile, making tracks and charging full speed ahead to a densely populated town in Pennsylvania. Traffic manager Connie (Rosario Dawson) is keeping track of the train's trajectory, trying to come up with a way to avert the train's collision course. Her obtuse boss (Kevin Dunn), trying to avoid a public relations nightmare, sets in motion a plan to derail the train, against the better judgment of Washington and another expert. When the train escapes derailment and continues to charge full steam ahead, Washington and Pine take matters into their own hands. The result is breathtaking, thrill-a-minute action that includes high speed chases involving helicopters, trains and automobiles.
Denzel brings his "A" game once again, as the engineer who goes all out to avert catastrophe, and Pine cements himself as an "A"-list Hollywood star to be reckoned with. Dawson is superlative as the woman trying to keep a runaway train, her futile boss and a couple of renegades on track.
"Unstoppable" personifies Scott's brand of visual storytelling and is one of his stronger films. He builds the story and tension deliberately, before letting rip an action flick that will keep you gasping right up to the explosive climax.