A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that compared to other Tony Scott/Denzel Washington thrillers (like Man on Fire), Unstoppable is relatively mild on violence. There's definitely lots of suspense -- and plenty of nailbiting scenes -- but there's no blood or weapons violence. A train explosion does kill one conductor, the runaway train nearly collides with a horse, and the main characters get injured and bruised. Language includes "s--t" and "ass," and prominent brands include Hooters and Ford. There's not too much sexual content -- a kiss, a couple of embraces, and a shot of the Hooters waitresses. Washington's wise, brave character is a good example of an older character who still has lots of expertise and experience to contribute; he and Chris Pine's character demonstrate strong teamwork skills.
What's the story?
On his first day of work, newbie railway company employee Will (Chris Pine) is teamed with seasoned engineer Frank (Denzel Washington). While they're out picking up a cargo shipment, another rail worker (Ethan Suplee) ditches a heavy train full of combustible material, causing it to go at full speed without anyone on board to man it. The responsible train yard supervisor, Connie (Rosario Dawson), attempts to work with her greedy corporate manager (Kevin Dunn) to come up with a solution to stop the train before it hits any other trains or reaches a dangerous above-ground curve that will definitely derail it. Since Will and Frank are on the same track as the runaway train, they start working on a plan to slow it -- but there's no room for error, or an entire Pennsylvania town could be decimated.
Is it any good?
This isn't one of those action movies people will be talking about in 10 years, but it's a decent nail-biter with exceptional actors. This is director Tony Scott's fifth collaboration with Washington, so at this point, we know what to expect when the two work together: explosions, intense action sequences, and Washington chewing up the scenery. UNSTOPPABLE, which is based on real events, is actually much simpler (there's no real villain, just a mildly greedy train corporation and the train itself), less violent (the body count stops at one), and funnier than previous Scott/Washington outings (Suplee and a couple of other supporting actors provide much-needed comic relief). As Washington ages (his character here is being forced to retire), it only makes sense that their films should mellow a bit too, and it works.
At first Washington and Pine seem to have no real chemistry, but as the movie lurches forward and the dramatic tension is set up, they start to play off each other well. And it's always a pleasure to see two such charismatic actors (although Pine, like in the film, is definitely the novice to Washington's master craftsman) spar and then find common ground. It's also refreshing to see Dawson play a female leader in a profession where that surely isn't the norm; she proves once again that she doesn't always need to be the stereotypical leading lady to nail a role.
Talk to your kids about ...
One of the movie's themes is ageism. At first, how does Will react to Frank's age and Frank to Will's newbie status? How does their relationship change by the end?
How does this movie compare to other "train movies"? What's so compelling about a runaway train?
- In theaters: November 12, 2010
- On DVD or streaming: February 15, 2011
- Cast: Chris Pine, Denzel Washington, Rosario Dawson
- Director: Tony Scott
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Run time: 98 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sequences of action and peril, and some language
For kids who love thrills
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.