November 19, 2010

Guess What Is Unstoppable: Movie Review

unstoppable-poster.jpg

i probably saw a different movie than you

The plot of Unstoppable is deceptively simple: an unmanned freight train is accidentally sent running down the track, hurtling with all the force of an unmanned freight train towards a small town in Pennsylvania, where it will derail at a curve like an unmanned freight train and destroy the earth.  Two men, Denzel Washington and Chris Pine, risk their lives to bring it to a safe stop.



True to the title, the train is unstoppable.  It defies its brakes, it blasts through an RV, it flips over several police cars, it flips a train in front of it which then explodes with the blast of the Manhattan Project, ignores a SWAT team shooting assault rifles at it (really) and not only rides right over the Automatic Derailers, it shoots them off the tracks where they take out some more police cars.

What no one initially realizes is that not only is the train 150 miles long and carrying AIDS, but it is also a Decepticon.  


Here's a movie tip: whenever they apply personification to an object, then that object itself stands for something else that isn't a person.  In this case the train, like zombies, is a metaphor for cold, uncaring, unstoppable, raging capitalism, and as soon as I say that the rest of the movie makes complete sense, i.e. makes no sense at all.  The movie then gets  retitled, Unwatchable.

II.

This is what happens in the movie:

A dumb, fat, lazy white guy-- none of those are insults but deliberately highlighted aspects of the character--  made a series of errors:  didn't follow protocol, didn't listen to
his superiors, took shortcuts, all which lead to the train taking off at full throttle.  Fattastic's immediate response is to chase it, on foot.  Fail.

It hurtles towards a small town called Stanton, PA, home of All That Is Good In This World.  Who can save this small town of hard working folk from the evils of capitalism?  Not middle aged white guys, that's for sure, they got us into this mess.  No, the main good guy at HQ is a young non-white woman, Rosario Dawson, who I'm not sure is qualified to be an actress let alone in charge of a railroad.  But there she is, the voice of reason, a tough-as-nails mix of pragmatism and ethics, surrounded by Corporate White Guys who only care about the bottom line.

This scene actually happened:  a bunch of Corporate White Guys are sitting around a conference table trying to figure out how to stop the train with minimal damage to the company.   Finally, they call the Big Boss who isn't physically present on site during this disaster and can't be bothered to show up.   You'll never believe where he is.  A golf course.  I know.  The Suits tell him that the train has the potential to destroy reality as we know it, should they derail it?  and because he is a Decider he only needs to ask one question and that question is, "what will the effect on the share price be?"  I didn't know that that was something you could get a definitive answer to?  But I'm not white.

After the White Guys have tried everything else-- in other words, have made no real attempt slow Capitalism down, the actual job of saving the Earth falls to... wait for it... an older black man and a very young white man-- his apprentice.  They young white guy actually comes from a powerful family and they pulled strings to make him the conductor. The message is clear: the middle aged white guys have wrecked everything, the future belongs to the young white guys coming up but they don't know anything because they come from privilege, i.e. older white guys; and the only practical knowledge left is possessed by the hard working black men upon whose back the white guys built everything.  Hopefully the Denzels can pass their knowledge along to the Chrises quickly, because of course Corporate will be laying the Denzels off to replace them with Chrises, which, we learned, is precisely what has happened to Denzel.   And if you think I'm exaggerating this point, the only other black person in the whole movie is the schoolteacher.  Who will no doubt be laid off, just after she teaches all the white kids how to read and vote for Mitt Romney.

III.

No surprise: they eventually stop the train.  But there's a completely unnecessary scene where they explain the plan.

The heroes/The Federal Reserve have a plan: chasing down Capitalism (from behind) in their engine, linking up, and then braking the whole thing to a halt.

A federal regulator, who at the beginning of the movie is ignored and marginalized, who only accidentally happens to be at HQ that day, disagrees:

INSPECTOR: I know the conventional wisdom is just link up and then throw the whole thing into reverse, but you'll get better traction if you alternate between braking and full throttle.

DENZEL: You sure about that?

INSPECTOR: Well, it's based on some preliminary calculations...


Get it?  Capitalism can be saved by interspersing braking with stimulus!  Wow.


IV.

The end of the movie is right out of a Lenin comic book.  The white guy is injured, so the black guy has to stop the train himself, and heroically runs from the Last Car Of The American Economy all the way to the front-- but the last jump is too big.   "I can't do it," he says. 

So it's up to the young white guy, heir to the future but injured in the present, to jump from a moving pickup truck back on to the Engine of Capitalism and bring it under control.  Which he does, yay.   If the movie ended there it could be considered class warfare propaganda suitable for the Cubans.

But then the movie takes a decidedly bizarre, American, turn.  The final scene is a press conference-- because the press always gets the final word about the resolution of a conflict and decide who's to blame and who's a hero.  As the proletariat heroes answer questions for the thankful public, Denzel then explains to Chris how Corporate called and thanked him, and gave him and Chris promotions.   And then... that's it.  End of movie.   No morality lesson, no one gets punished, everybody back to work.  Once the runaway train of Inflation And Catastrophe is stopped, it is returned to its Corporate owners and filled back up with plutonium and baby souls.

Cut to camera 5, and pull back: to reveal that you are seeing this all on a TV screen, you realize that you are watching all of this on the news; in fact, you recall that the entire movie has been saturated with reporters giving exposition, TV screens with FOX or CNN showing us what happens.  What we know-- the facts of the train's movements, etc, all come from the news:


unstoppable-breaking news.JPG


unstoppable-tv footage.JPG


Which is, after all, just like real life.


V.

It's a legitimate question we all first voiced in 5th grade: did the writer really have all that in mind when he wrote this?  Maybe, maybe not, and I could also cop out by saying that the movie's accidental theme may be what resonated with an exasperated public, and thus makes it popular.

The problem with doing movie-as-social criticism is not that it reads too much into things but that it never goes to the inevitable conclusion.  If that train is rampant capitalism, then it was human error that caused the trouble.  None of this would have happened if it was all automated.  Drawing only from the text, the problem isn't that we need more ethical people, the problem is we need less people all together.  I'm not sure that's not the message they were hoping for.


---


http://twitter.com/thelastpsych







Comments

Like this? You might also t... (Below threshold)

November 19, 2010 9:56 AM | Posted by popo: | Reply

Like this? You might also this:
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/AlternativeCharacterInterpretation?from=Main.AlternateCHaracterInterpretation

This is not an ad. I rape puppies and I lick starfish clits. Nobody corporate would say that.

Anyway TLP, I'm not sure what your point is here... Are you embracing the upcoming (pfft yeah right) technological singularity?

Are you suggesting we kill some people?

End overpopulation by killing the elite?

Help a brother out.

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Also, you're aware that nob... (Below threshold)

November 19, 2010 10:00 AM | Posted by popo: | Reply

Also, you're aware that nobody is gonna comment on the story and they're just going to focus on you revealing your non-whiteness?

Or maybe it is a Kansas city shuffle, like when my brother was in New York and somebody called him a white boy.

"No no no" he said, "I'm not white, I'm Irish"

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I made that story up.... (Below threshold)

November 19, 2010 10:01 AM | Posted by popo: | Reply

I made that story up.

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"the problem isn't that we ... (Below threshold)

November 19, 2010 11:58 AM | Posted by Dave: | Reply

"the problem isn't that we need more ethical people, the problem is we need less people all together. I'm not sure that's not the message they were hoping for."

Sure as hell ain't unfortunately, but it is the only message that makes any sense. Population overshoot is the amplifier of all other problems.
So, we have to overshoot to understand those problems and realize the limits which we're hitting ? Sad but true, painful and real.

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Don't expect anything of va... (Below threshold)

November 19, 2010 11:59 AM | Posted by Xzadfor: | Reply

Don't expect anything of value out of hollywood and you will never be disapointed.

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Speaking of the runaway tra... (Below threshold)

November 19, 2010 1:37 PM | Posted by AnAnon: | Reply

Speaking of the runaway train of capitalism...this interview with Slavoj Zizek is an excellent discussion of just that topic. He may just have become one of my favorite cultural critics

http://english.aljazeera.net/programmes/rizkhan/2010/11/201011111191189923.html

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"...the problem is we need ... (Below threshold)

November 19, 2010 1:52 PM | Posted by Gary: | Reply

"...the problem is we need less people all together. I'm not sure that's not the message they were hoping for."


Don't be so sure. This is every fanatical environmentalist's wet dream.

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Dude, I hope you occasional... (Below threshold)

November 19, 2010 1:54 PM | Posted by Fargo: | Reply

Dude, I hope you occasionally watch some half decent movies to balance out the crap you expose yourself to.

My initial take on this movie (admittedly based only on the trailer)? Someone read Atlas Shrugged and ceased being functional as a cogitating animal. That happens a fair amount, though thankfully it seems some people recover from it.

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Haven't seen this movie yet... (Below threshold)

November 19, 2010 3:31 PM | Posted by zozo: | Reply

Haven't seen this movie yet, but I was certain, based on the trailer, that it was a an Oedipal tale of a young man coming to terms with his sexuality, ultimately resolved by identification with the father figure: out of control train, black man (to exacerbate the whole masculinity/sexuality issue), resolution with corporate leaders, etc.

But rampant capitalism works, too. Sometimes a train is just...a metaphor for someone's pet theory about economics. Or maybe it's just about narcissism and keeping whitey down.

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the problem isn't ... (Below threshold)

November 19, 2010 6:19 PM | Posted by David: | Reply

the problem isn't that we need more ethical people, the problem is we need less people all together.

That could summarize your point ... then again, perhaps it would just be easier to write a book "In defense of older, affluent, white men." Not that you necessarily happen to be in that group.

Cough.

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This is not an ad. I rap... (Below threshold)

November 19, 2010 9:38 PM | Posted, in reply to popo's comment, by The Devastator: | Reply

This is not an ad. I rape puppies and I lick starfish clits. Nobody corporate would say that.

In 18 months, all ads will say that, and the Navajo Codetalkers will have to come up with something else. Thanks a lot.

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"But I'm not white."<... (Below threshold)

November 20, 2010 12:43 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

"But I'm not white."

YOU LIE
!!

OMGz
secret reveal on TLP blog

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So...It's about republicans... (Below threshold)

November 20, 2010 2:59 AM | Posted by G: | Reply

So...It's about republicans then?

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You're not white? I'm not s... (Below threshold)

November 20, 2010 3:28 AM | Posted by Kevin: | Reply

You're not white? I'm not sure I trust you anymore...

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well that was kind of a was... (Below threshold)

November 20, 2010 4:06 AM | Posted by randy: | Reply

well that was kind of a waste of my time. it seems like all of the movies that are geared towards the stupid tell this same kind of story. the movie isn't even about the story, it's about the thinly-veiled (beyond thin) political message, which isn't a very CRAP CRAP CRAP CRAP CRAP.

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Doc, I'm sure you are aware... (Below threshold)

November 20, 2010 5:13 AM | Posted by Whatever: | Reply

Doc, I'm sure you are aware those are just poorly done bed-time stories for black folks who know how things truly work in real life.

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Just another projective tes... (Below threshold)

November 20, 2010 2:22 PM | Posted by commonreader: | Reply

Just another projective test.

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I think it's also kind of i... (Below threshold)

November 20, 2010 3:18 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

I think it's also kind of interesting that the movie was billed as being "based on a true story."

Given the context of your review, one might ask as to what the true story is...

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But I'm not white.</... (Below threshold)

November 20, 2010 4:12 PM | Posted, in reply to popo's comment, by I Am White: | Reply

But I'm not white.

Maybe he's not, but I'd bet this is another one of the tricks he plays on us to get us to ask, "does it matter who he is? Just focus on the ideas."

But I'm not a pirate.

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Maybe it is, maybe it isn't... (Below threshold)

November 20, 2010 7:14 PM | Posted, in reply to I Am White's comment, by Cashman: | Reply

Maybe it is, maybe it isn't, but

""does it matter who he is? Just focus on the ideas.""

seems like a good way to approach the question

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Fyi this is not the first t... (Below threshold)

November 21, 2010 2:30 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Fyi this is not the first time TLP has alluded to non-whitneness (whether or not it is true) i'd dig up the link for you but honestly i can't be bothered.

now, TLP, if you could keep your site from freezing my computer, i'd visit more often and have real things to say.

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why watch this movie. you m... (Below threshold)

November 21, 2010 5:48 PM | Posted by post: | Reply

why watch this movie. you must be bored.
'inside job' documentary looks good.
popo is dumb white guy. starfish clit? that isnt funny. that is trying to be funny.
i hope popo is not irish cause that would be an embarassment to me. im irish.
tho we fcked our economy by copying usa et al, we tend to think we are more clever and hav more class than 'starfish clit' jusssssss sayin.

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Just saw the movie after I ... (Below threshold)

November 21, 2010 6:05 PM | Posted by Unimpressed: | Reply

Just saw the movie after I read this review, and the review totally ruined the movie for me. I'm not sure I would have got the capitalism angle on my own, but from the moment the train left the station me and my buddies were laughing. And the end, just like you said, was a total gimme to the corporations. There's a character who's kind of an ex-hippie, ex-vietnam oddball sort who wears gold tinted aviators. He drives the truck Chris Pine jumps off of, and at the end at the press conference he is in a three piece suit. No lie.

Thanks for ruining it for me, but thanks making it in some ways even more entertaining.

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<a href="http://dublinopini... (Below threshold) You must be pretty dumb if ... (Below threshold)

November 21, 2010 7:13 PM | Posted, in reply to post's comment, by popo: | Reply

You must be pretty dumb if you think you had anything to do with the direction the country took. This ridiculous concept of "we" needs to be retired.

I am Irish. What of it?

Go fuck yourself.

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So TLP - what did make you ... (Below threshold)

November 22, 2010 12:55 AM | Posted by OutOfCuriosity: | Reply

So TLP - what did make you watch this movie?

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your comments reflect that ... (Below threshold)

November 22, 2010 3:52 AM | Posted, in reply to popo's comment, by Post: | Reply

your comments reflect that you lack much in class. i.e. refinement, sophistication, taste.

and you seem not to possess much sense of your own individual power, much less knowledge of your ancestral history as an "Irish" person for no irish person would remark "this ridiculous concept of 'we' needs to be retired' or 'you must be pretty dumb if you think you had anything to do with the direction the country took.' :

This is because modern Ireland was hard fought and hard won for her people. 600 years of slavery and destruction of Irish culture was suffered at the hands of the British until, 'we'- a group of individuals decided- must be free to determine the fate of our own lives in our own country. 'We' fought for our independence and freedom and thus began our journey determining what direction our country took. While every Irish person may not now be a member of parliament or have a hand in making the laws of the land, every person of voting age has a hand in deciding who makes and enforces the laws of the land and thus has everything to do with what direction the country took and takes; keep in mind ratification of Lisbon Treaty was '09 .

Popo- you might enjoy learning about your heritage; it may be an enriching and empowering experience for you. Ask for a book or movie on Irish independence for your Christmas gift.


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You make many assumptions a... (Below threshold)

November 22, 2010 5:56 AM | Posted by popo: | Reply

You make many assumptions about me. That you think I am unfamiliar with the history of my own country is quite insulting.

Does that not make you the classless one?

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I thought it was Rescue Her... (Below threshold)

November 22, 2010 8:26 AM | Posted by Sethic: | Reply

I thought it was Rescue Heroes The Movie!?!

Seriously though that bothers me - a film who's only villians are merely neglectful - problems are from natural events / capitalistic overextension / lack of concern on the part of otherwise "ok" people - not like there aren't people trying to kill us, or actual WARS in Africa, or a million other man vs man conflicts to write about.

There are genuinely EVIL people out there, and in many instances there are gneuinely GOOD people fighting them. But no, let's make a movie about a killer trian.

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They young white guy act... (Below threshold)

November 22, 2010 10:52 AM | Posted by Jack Coupal: | Reply

They young white guy actually comes from a powerful family and they pulled strings to make him the conductor.

now that is hilarious!!

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They young white guy act... (Below threshold)

November 22, 2010 10:52 AM | Posted by Jack Coupal: | Reply

They young white guy actually comes from a powerful family and they pulled strings to make him the conductor.

now that is hilarious!!

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What I'd really like to see... (Below threshold)

November 22, 2010 11:40 AM | Posted by Sethic: | Reply

What I'd really like to see is a movie about the first Gulf War: In a 'just' war, the US renders combat ineffective the 8th largest army in the world, taking only 100hrs to do it. Boom goes the dynamite.

What do we get about THAT? 'Jarhead' and 'Three Kings'.

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I'm sure that will be cover... (Below threshold)

November 22, 2010 11:55 AM | Posted, in reply to Sethic's comment, by popo: | Reply

I'm sure that will be covered if they ever make a film about John Boyd.

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I think it's also kind o... (Below threshold)

November 22, 2010 12:23 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

I think it's also kind of interesting that the movie was billed as being "based on a true story."

Given the context of your review, one might ask as to what the true story is...
True story is that in 2001 a train was inadvertently put in "go" in Toledo and left unmanned (probably some mistake-upon-mistake set of circumstances not too unlike in the movie). It took 2 hours and 66 miles to get it stopped. It was 47 cars long, and it really was carrying molten phenol (2 cars). The state highway patrol evacuated areas around crossings, to make sure no cars got hit.

http://articles.cnn.com/2001-05-15/us/runaway.train.05_1_jon-hosfeld-runaway-freight-train-tank-cars?_s=PM:US

It averaged about 30 to 35 mph over that 2 hours, with a high speed of 47. Stopping the train really did involve coupling on from the rear and applying brakes from the back to slow down the train. Once it was down to about 10 mph, a guy (a 31-year employee, not some kid on his first day on the job) jumped aboard the engine and shut it down.

They apparently did some of the filming for the movie around Kenton, near the spot where the real train was stopped.

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You're totally Asian! ... (Below threshold)

November 24, 2010 2:51 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

You're totally Asian!

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Anonymous @ 12:23 Nov. 22,<... (Below threshold)

November 24, 2010 10:04 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Jack Coupal: | Reply

Anonymous @ 12:23 Nov. 22,

Thanks for the backstory.

Would it be possible to install kill switches on locomotive engines to remotely stop the engine in event of a runaway, much like there are on some automobiles today (e.g., to stop a stolen car while being driven to make the engine inoperable)?

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"But I'm not white"Wait,wha... (Below threshold)

November 26, 2010 3:07 PM | Posted by v: | Reply

"But I'm not white"Wait,what?

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popo sucks. ... (Below threshold)

November 27, 2010 6:40 PM | Posted, in reply to popo's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

popo sucks.

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Would it be possib... (Below threshold)

November 30, 2010 11:38 AM | Posted by jen: | Reply

Would it be possible to install kill switches on locomotive engines to remotely stop the engine in event of a runaway, much like there are on some automobiles today (e.g., to stop a stolen car while being driven to make the engine inoperable)?

Sorry to come back to this so much later...

According to the movie, a train's air brakes will activate if an engineer doesn't hit a button (or lever or something) every so often. No idea if that sort of deadman switch really exists.

The air brakes are real - BUT those air brakes have to be hooked up - a hose has to be snapped into place between every car. Every time cars are separated (or added) or an engine is replaced, those hoses have to be reconnected.

http://www.railroad.net/articles/railfanning/airbrakes/index.php

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Thanks for the info, jen. S... (Below threshold)

November 30, 2010 5:10 PM | Posted, in reply to jen's comment, by Jack Coupsl: | Reply

Thanks for the info, jen. Still, it seems that a deadman or kill control for the engine itself must exist (in case cab crew suddenly become sick or disabled).

I haven't seen the movie. Maybe there's also The Hollywood Method for stopping a run-away train.

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You're totally Asian!</i... (Below threshold)

December 1, 2010 5:10 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by TheInverseAgonist: | Reply

You're totally Asian!

Yeah, I hear they make the best alcoholics.

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Chestnut boots on sale ... (Below threshold)

August 8, 2011 11:54 PM | Posted by http://chestnut-boots.weebly.com/: | Reply

Chestnut boots on sale !

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