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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Unstoppable

February 12th, 2011

Unstoppable - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

I'll be honest. When I first heard of Unstoppable, my initial thought was of The Big Bus, but this movie was serious, and not a parody. It did have a good cast, plus director Tony Scott knows his way around a film like this. However, I still remained unsold. Then the reviews started coming in. Now the question is, is the film as good as the reviews? Or does the setup sink it?

The Movie

There's not much of a plot to this movie. For the first ten minutes, little happens outside of setting up the disaster. We learn a little about out two main leads. Frank's the veteran who has been working on the job for nearly three decades. Meanwhile, Will's a rookie just four months out of training. They will be working together on a very simple, very direct run. However, at the same time, there's a minor problem at the train yard. A train carrying some dangerous chemicals needs to be moved off a track that is to be used by a passenger train carrying school kids, who are there to learn about train safety. However, during the process, the train gets away unmanned and begins racing down the main track, and under full power, which makes it a whole lot more dangerous than first anticipated.

That's the basic setup. We also learn a little about the two main leads and their family lives, but that's more or less superfluous. Don't get me wrong, some of the quieter moments of character interaction between Frank and Will are some of the best of the movie, but they are not necessary to discuss the execution of the movie, which is surprisingly strong. It builds tension exceedingly well and at a very fast pace. Ten minutes in and the train is already on its way and the tension is maintained for well over an hour with only a few miscues.

For instance, was that cop car flipping over really necessary? Or in a less specific way, there were a few scenes with a little too much in the way of fancy editing tricks. Quick cuts, as well as slow motion, instant replays and other tricks are usually a sign of overcompensating for a film that just isn't working. This movie didn't need any of those tricks.

The Extras

Extras on the DVD includes an audio commentary track with Tony Scott. Solo tracks usually lack energy compared to group tracks, and while he's certainly not electrifying in his speech, he's never with a loss of something to say and the track is quite informative. Tracking the Story: Unstoppable Script Development is another commentary track, this time with the Tony Scott and Mark Bomback, the writer, discussing the script.

The Blu-ray has a quartet of featurettes on various subjects starting with The Fastest Track: Unleashing Unstoppable, which is a 30-minute making of featurette. Derailed: Anatomy of a Scene is a ten-minute featurette on one of the biggest special effect scenes in the movie, which was mostly practical work. Hanging Off the Train: Stunt Work is a 14-minute look at the stunts. Finally, On the Rails with the Director and Cast is a 13-minute interview featurette with Tony Scott, Denzel Washington, Chris Pine, and Rosario Dawson. The Blu-ray is also BD-Live enabled with the usual list of trailers, plus a short look at the pyrotechnics in the movie.

On to the technical aspect. The film looks great, but it sounds even better. The Oscar nominated sound really gives your surround sound system a workout, and you bass will feel it.

The Blu-ray does cost close to 40% more than the DVD, but it's worth it.

The Verdict

Despite my initial misgivings, Unstoppable really delivers and it is worth checking out. In fact, for most it will be worth picking up, and those that do will want to grab the Blu-ray over the DVD.

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