Unstoppable is my least favorite film from Tony Scott. It's not that Denzel is wrong, or that trains are wrong, or that the drama was wrong, it's just that the whole Tony Scott formula just didn't bring this off.
The problem is, simply stated, you actually have to suspend a bit of disbelief because of the lack of a bit of dialog that could have saved the movie, maybe. You see, you know that in a film you have to set up effects to give a train moving at speeds safe enough to film look as if it were unsafe in the story. But you can't do anything cheesy like speed up the film. So you can shake the camera, blur the focus, amp up the sound, do quick cuts and pull out of a top hat any number of filmic miracles. Tony Scott has a large bag of tricks, but when you see the train rounding a curve a whole lot sharper than the one that's supposed to be the apocalyptic curve - you have to say wait a minute. So how about explaining why sometimes the train is going 70 and sometimes it's going 40? Not once did anybody talk about hills or grades. So I'm thinking they must know that Pennsylvania is all flat or something and that if they put hills there, it would lose authenticity. So. The this runaway train goes arbitrarily fast or slow with no reason. That kinda blows it.
Everything else is reasonably perfect. The thing is, Scott has destroyed what might have otherwise been a very good blue collar drama. The tension between workers and their bosses, between old and young employees, between companies and media, between competence and incompetence, between father and daughters, between man and estranged wife all were done to perfection. The runaway train could have just been an excuse to make those portrayals in an excellent film. But I cannot get that scene out of my head where this train scoots slowly around a curve, supposedly on its way to high speed oblivion.
It surely was the fact that I was in one of those glamorous new Arclight theaters with only 12 other people in the audience that calmed me. The Spousal Unit jumped at all of the jump points, and we both winced at the wince points but there was nobody else in the audience to cheer at the cheer points and the whole edifice fell flat.
I liked Denzel's other train movie much better. Sorry Tony, but you should have let it go after Pelham 123.