Unstoppable Blu-ray Review
Unstoppable comes to US Region A-locked Blu-ray complete with a superb 1080p High Definition video rendition in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of widescreen 2.4:1. Now, this is a Tony Scott movie, so what you’re going to see is a bunch of different film stocks, timing speeds, blurring, slow-mo, speed-up, flash imagery all thrown at you at various stages of the movie. Scott’s style has been evident in every single one of his last half-dozen movies, and whilst this isn’t as jarring as Domino, or even as frenetic as Man on Fire, you can tell – right from the opening introduction to ‘The Train’ – exactly who is directing this beast. With all this in mind you have to accept that massively variable grain levels, occasional blurring and other otherwise objectionable events will take place – but are all a totally intentional aspect of the over-processing that the Director likes. Detail is strong throughout, with absolutely no signs of any digital artefacting – there’s no edge enhancement, banding or DNR. From the close-ups of the lead characters’ faces to the longer shots of the train rocketing through the landscape, the image remains superior. The colour scheme is inherently limited by the material, and by the gritty look that Scott was going for, but there are plenty of lush and vibrant greens, the red and neon yellow of some of the uniforms comes into play, and the tones that are on offer are rich and realistic. There’s no sign of any bleeding whatsoever and black levels are strong and inky without any blocking. It’s a great video presentation – but one which does the film no favours in some sleight-of-hand scenes (there’s one moment where a character is dangling precariously and can be seen to literally disappear from one scene to the next – a little more blurring and this would not have been possible to notice, but with such great picture quality it stands out like a sore thumb!)
On the aural front what you will notice right from the outset is that this is a bass-driven train. Your LFE channel will light up as the central character (i.e. the runaway) is introduced – and even before it starts moving the low hum of the engines will reverberate through your living room. Dialogue comes across relatively clearly and coherently – even though they usually have to shout about the train noises to hear one another – and there is clear distinction between spoken words, and those that come in over the radios. The score occasionally goes over-the-top to make scenes with no tension seem like they are supposed to be thrilling, but is otherwise pretty forgettable, standard action-thriller stuff, pounding at you in perfect timing with the crazy visuals, and bringing forth yet more bass to further punctuate the proceedings. The effects are loud too. In fact everything about this is loud, loud, loud, even when nothing is happening. You don’t need a crash to liven up the proceedings; just this train passing through a small town will attempt to deafen you. Surround action is almost constant, but the rears don’t always kick up as much of a fuss as you would expect from this kind of bang-for-your-buck movie. Still, there’s some nice separation across the channels – particularly from the helicopters (always a great way to show off surrounds) and overall it’s a powerful, loud, offering. Did I mention it was loud?
The full-length audio commentary is with the director Tony Scott and, as usual, he provides a solid if unexceptional offering, which notes lots of technical information, delves into the research done to make the movie more authentic, and occasionally drops in a couple of anecdotes, but is generally pretty standard. Fans will want to check it out – they’ll be used to Scott commentaries by now – but there’s nothing desperately worthy of note here.
Tracking the Story: Unstoppable Script Development is a second track which has Scott and writer Mark Bomback talking about the intense scriptwork they did behind the scenes. They discuss character development, plot machinations and the elements that do and don’t work, and show just how much effort was put in to getting this aspect right (even if, in my opinion, they still didn’t succeed). A considerably more engaging effort than the solo commentary.
The Fastest Track: Unleashing Unstoppable is a 24-minute Making Of Featurette which covers all the bases, splicing behind the scenes footage with final film footage and interjecting cast and crew interview snippets throughout. It’s interesting to hear how Scott wanted to minimise the use of CG – and so had Washington (who had a fear of heights) actually doing much of his own stuntwork; how the railway execs largely supported this project; and what lengths they went to in order to capture some of the more elaborate shots.
Derailed: Anatomy of a Scene takes 10 minutes to look specifically at this stunt, complete with multiple-camera-angle dissection, and a detailed background into what it took to accomplish this brief explosive moment.
Hanging Off the Train: Stunt Work spends 14 minutes offering up yet more behind the scenes footage into how they staged a few of more dramatic the train sequences, where various cast members are either running across the train or dangling off it.
On the Rails with the Director and Cast gives us a further 13 minutes, this time having the director joined by leading cast members Denzel Washington, Chris Pine and Rosario Dawson, who all chat, on set, about the production. Many of the topics have already been covered and, considering the people involved, I was hoping for a slightly more interesting offering. Still, as with several of the other Featurettes, this is another above-average extra which largely eschews promotional padding in favour of behind the scenes and interview footage.
Finally we get the original Theatrical Trailer along with a few other Previews.
It’s a shame because the director/actor team of Tony Scott and Denzel Washington have become such an overwhelming force at the Box Office that nobody seems to care anymore whether the movies that they make are any good. Unstoppable marks their fifth collaboration and, whilst far from a bad production, it is still their most mediocre effort to date. Based on true events, Scott, unusually, maintains quite a realistic approach and even tones down any of the potentially over-the-top moments – and that’s just not what you want from a movie about a runaway train. Worse still, he appears to think that his usual, frenetic, directing style will paper over the cracks in the wafer-thin, hole-ridden plot. The cast radio-in their performances, with even Washington appearing to be just along for the money-making ride, and whilst you may be reasonably entertained for the thankfully short duration, the film still comes across as little more than a bigger budget variation on a standard Channel 5 straight-to-TV fictionalised ‘true story’ disaster movie.
On Region A-locked US Blu-ray we get superb video and audio, and a hefty selection of extras that should keep fans occupied. It’s a package that’s worth picking up if you really love the movie, but don’t be too fooled – even if this was reasonably thrilling at the cinemas, it may not prove quite such an exhilarating ride in the home theatre. I’d recommend a rental because, whilst this film is certainly not horrible, in any way, it is most definitely forgettable, in every way.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £24.79
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