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‘Unstoppable’ runs non-stop service toward perfection

Pitchforks: 3.5 out of 5 Starring: Denzel Washington, Chris Pine Rated: PG-13 Opens: Nov. 12

In May of 2001, a train in Ohio began its day unlike any other, underway and unmanned. Traveling for 72 miles and at speeds of up to 47 mph, this locomotive kept not only those living along its tracks on high alert because of its hazardous cargo, it also captivated the nation as it was successfully brought to a halt.

With a few changes made here and there, the based-on-real-life movie “Unstoppable,” which stars Denzel Washington (“Man on Fire”) and Chris Pine (“Star Trek”), delivers one of the best films of the year. In similar fashion to a freight train barreling down the tracks, “Unstoppable” moves with pristine precision towards perfection.

As advertised, “Unstoppable” is about a runaway train. While train wrecks do not usually make for good story telling, director Tony Scott (“Man on Fire”) achieves the impossible. From the slow churn through the tough lives of each character, to the heart-pounding end to this tale, “Unstoppable” delivers non-stop action and suspense from start to finish.

Washington, who teams up with Scott yet again, plays Frank, a train conductor who has worked the tracks for most of his adult life and knows everything about life on and off the rails. On the day everything goes haywire, Washington is training the newly promoted Will, played by Pine, who is hoping to get his life back in order.

From the beginning, tension between the seasoned veteran and the inexperienced newcomer is present, though it exists only to demonstrate the seriousness of the situation. The movie definitely plays on a number of different themes and conflicts. One of those is how major corporations function (or fail to) with basic day-to-day operations, and in times of crisis.

Nevertheless, “Unstoppable” is not a movie about corporations; it is barely about trains and how to stop them when they go rogue (if that is even possible at all). This is a movie meant to remind everyone that nothing is worth giving up on, particularly if it means something to you.

“Unstoppable” is not without perfect morsels of light-hearted humor either. Most of the comedic parts come from local media outlets — how they are portrayed and what they are reporting on. In addition to all of this, Connie, played by Rosario Dawson, will remind you so often that “hazardous chemicals” are onboard that it almost seems like a punch line.

This truly is movie making at its finest. To consciously present a finished product that flirts with the literal and figurative outcome of a train wreck takes more than just a heightened bravado; it also takes an unparalleled ability to engage one’s audience with effective and moving storytelling.

Together, Scott and Washington have established themselves as more than capable storytellers. Pine, who is off to a great start as a young actor, seems ready to take the reigns for future emotionally charged thrillers. As for “Unstoppable,” it has proved itself as an undeniable delight.

Reviving the “can-do” spirit of the American way of life could not come at a better time. “Unstoppable,” at its core, is a clear and concise representation of the American ideal. Work hard and do the right thing, even when no one is watching, but especially if everyone is.

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