Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Movie Analysis: Unstoppable

Last week my husband and I watched Unstoppable for our weekly movie night. Have you seen it? If you haven't, the main idea is that a runaway train carrying hazardous cargo is heading full-speed for a major city. If it is not stopped before it reaches the city, a sharp turn in the track at the city limits will cause it to derail and release said hazardous cargo and kill lots of people. Big stakes.

Now I'm not going to say that it was the very best movie I've ever seen, but this movie did one thing really really well:

It created tension.

For example, in the very beginning of the movie we see a crowd of little children visiting the train yard on a field trip. These children have one obvious purpose—to be put in danger so that we're on the edge of our seats waiting to see if they'll be okay. Looking ahead I thought, “Well, there you have it! The final showdown will be train vs. tots, and the main characters will have to come in and save the kids. Ho hum.”

Ten minutes later that very showdown happened (minus the main characters), and I realized maybe my prediction had been a bit premature. That dangerous scenario I'd been envisioning was only the first tense moment in a string of ever-increasing conflicts. I'd have only a moment of relief after each near-disaster before being presented with the next impending catastrophe.

This movie kept me hooked.

And that tension came down to a few major components:
-great pacing
-characters who had been given enough history for me to care whether they lived or died
-build-up to higher and higher stakes with increasing difficulty of resolution

As far as action movies go, this is a great one for studying how to keep an audience riveted.

If you've seen it, what did you think? Do you agree? And if you haven't seen it, what movies keep you on the edge of your seat?


  1. Don't stop there! Give us the plot points, the protagonist, antagonist, and relationship character!

    1. I was considering that, but two things held me back: 1) I have a very short memory when it comes to movies, and I couldn't remember all the plot points, and 2) I didn't want to give away too many spoilers.

  2. I loved Unstoppable. It's rare for a movie to have me so on the edge of my seat in the cinema, but this one kept me riveted. It's got all the perfect hallmarks of a good action movie. The sense of inevitable dread as things start to go wrong. The nervous hope, even though you know it's futile, as the supporting characters try to stop the train. The rising confidence that the heroes are the ones who will manage to save the day, because they're the ones with the experience, determination, and opportunity to make it happen.

    Damn, I wanna watch this again now...

    1. I know! It really kept my attention. And I think another thing it did right was show enough failed attempts with serious consequences that there wasn't any sense of a guarantee that all the characters would walk away unharmed. Plus I think Denzel Washington and Chris Pine worked really well together, and I liked the supporting cast too.

  3. My opinion? I love Denzel Washington and would watch him do anything hahaha :D <3