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Nice post. However, I found the emotional beats in "Unstoppable" to be more margarine than butter. For example, you could have removed Pine's character's emotional dilemma as well as Denzel's and the film wouldn't have been impacted all that much. I kept thinking, the train is so far away, just have someone call your loved ones and tell them to get outside the blast radius, but then the audience might think, "So, these guys risking their lives for a "train"? Which led me to feel the "emotional" beats were there to thwart that question and not so much as a true, compelling emotional dilemma that was driving these character's actions.

Another reason I never got the sense that either character had an emotional stake in saving their "loved ones", was because there was never a scene where we (the audience) could visually understand the relationships they were fighting for. There was a slight attempt with Pine's character watching his kid from afar get on the school bus, but I felt that was weak at best. To give an example of a film that I feel had solid action AND true emotional beats, is "Die Hard".

In "Die Hard" the scene between Mclaine and his wife at the beginning, for example, helps us to "see" the emotional dynamic Mclaine is fighting for. Also the way his wife reacts to the news of her husband's continued heroism, a mixture of knowing frustration and concern, shows us their relationship is deep (only those you deeply love can drive you crazy, even when they're trying to save your life). To me, that's the stuff Land-O-lakes is made of. On the contrary, Denzel's daughters are superficial and shallow, and Pine's wife and kid are...blonde, and not much else. I felt if they perhaps traded a few "train smashing into stuff" shots and replaced them with, "this is the love/life I'm fighting for" shots, there'd be more cream and less oil in the lubricating mixture.

What do you think?

And, on a side note, I watched "Saint John of Las Vegas" and enjoyed it very much. Thanks again for your blog. Looking forward to more of your thoughts.


Hue Rhodes

I agree. As far as action films go, Unstoppable was neither the tear-jerkiest nor the heart-thumpiest. So your margarine analogy may be both more accurate and more insightful. And Diehard (to play this out) didn't just have butter on it - it was buttery and delicious all the way through.

Thanks for watching Saint John. I appreciate it.

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