Director: Tony Scott
Cast: Denzel Washington, Chris Pine, Rosario Dawson
Synopsis: Runaway train, never coming back… wrong way on a one way track….
Okay, so I took a bit of levity with my synopsis on this occasion, but the lyrics of Soul Asylum neatly sum up the plot of a very simple film. Do not be deceived though. The simplicity of the plot of this feature is perhaps its greatest asset. The film does not waste time on unneccessary elements. It establishes its characters, gives them enough back story to get the audience to care, then drops them right in the thick of it. The title does not lie… the only thing that will be stopping when you watch this film will be your heart.
Tony Scott is one of the masters of backs to the wall action. His films may not all have longevity, but they are exciting rides when you are watching them. He also has enough intelligence though to avoid excessive action. The eye can follow everything on-screen, something his action contemporaries should pay greater attention too (yes, I am talking to you, Michael “Bayhem” Bay). The action all takes place in two dimensions, but this does not make it any less thrilling. Imagine being on the same track as this chemical filled behemoth, unable to safely reverse given your own cargo, and in fact racing towards it to get on the only divergent track available before it passes. That is the first half of the film. Then imagine ejecting the cargo, and chasing it in reverse in hopes of tacking onto the train and provide a reverse thrust before it destroys a city. Two dimensions, but high stakes. Trust me, it works.
Washington has been pairing with Scott on films for an extended period, and he is very comfortable in his role, as 28 year veteran of the railways. His role has an easy laconic charm, but his experience is vital when it really hits the fan. Pine follows up his great portrayal as James Kirk with another action role he is very believable in. It is enough to give hope that the action genre has a future, somewhere toi go when the old guard of great action heroes, Washington included, hang up their running shoes. Dawson was also intelligently scripted and cast. Not only is she used to help the audience catch her breath, as she attempts to coordinate the response to the crisis, she breaks up some of the testosterone and gives the film a bit more pace (and gender) balance.
This is not a film that was ever going to threaten winning a cavalcade of Academy Awards. It never attempts to be. It is a pure action film, well performed and well paced. I am rating the film on this basis, and as such it is quite a success!
4 stars out of 5