The Unstoppable Tony Scott

February 28, 2011 | By

Tony Scott used to be a flash but relatively normal filmmaker, but somewhere around Enemy of the State (1998) he discovered ADD editing, and never looked back. More zoom-happy than Mario Bava, pushing discontinuous edits farther than Michael Bay, Scott – the younger brother of Ridley Scott – has managed to maintain his own storytelling style, but with the odd quirky similarity to brother Ridley.

He actually appeared in Ridley’s 1965 film debut, the short Boy and Bicycle, and the two established names for themselves as directors of striking TV commercials before eking out their own careers as film directors.

Both continue to collaborate as producers via their Scott Free production shingle, but it is amusing to see the two evolve into editorially flashy directors when wide visual compositions tended to be their hallmark. Tony still maintains a look reminiscent of glossy commercials, but like Ridley’s obsession in casting one actor (Russell Crowe) in all his films, Tony’s been glued to Denzel Washington.

Tony, however, isn’t obsessed with bloated epics that are released in even longer directorial cuts, not the use of conventional scores or the heavy use of CGI. His filmic world is a fusion of practical and creative, applying film tools ‘like paintbrush strokes’ whether it propels, heightens or utterly ruins a scene involving a car chase, or a character leaving forward to say ‘This is Garber’ into a microphone via 18 different angles with impeccable colour lighting.

Unstoppable [M] (Fox) is one of Tony Scott’s better films, but he’s also the best and worst kind of director to handle a disaster movie about a runaway train.

The good: the trains are real, as is the carnage. The bad: well, read the review.



In retrospect, the project feels like a natural extension of The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 [M] (Columbia / TriStar), the third remake of John Godey’s novel which Scott directed in 2009 that largely dealt with characters interacting around slow-moving or parked trains in the underground environs of the NYC transit system. Unstoppable is all exterior, all moving camera thingies, and characters are constantly chasing trains in sometimes vain attempts to restrain and halt the giant mechanical hulks.

Neither film is bad, but they’re products of a visually over-active mind who can’t tolerate stillness of any kind. If 12 years has pushed him to the current level of editorial shakycam, zoom-happy madness, one wonders where he’ll be in 2024.

Oh, I heard that thought. That wasn’t very nice…



Mark R. Hasan, Editor

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