Morning Glory & Unstoppable

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis


            Morning Glory is a movie that wants to be funnier than it is but still has enough belly laughs to make it worth the trip. On the plus side: Rachel McAdams, Diane Keaton, and Harrison Ford - aided by a cast you can warm to as time goes by.
                Hired to resuscitate a faltering morning TV show, executive producer Becky (Rachel McAdams) fails to pull the necessary ratings. Desperate, she hires the man who was once the trusted face of network news - the retired and bitter Mike (Harrison Ford.) Uncooperative and nasty to co-anchor Coleen (Diane Keaton), he trips his producer up at every turn until finally she says, "Mike, we're in trouble; help me." That's the trigger. Ford transformed is just one note nicer than before; Keaton unleashed is a nutty delight; and McAdams, triumphant, can relax.
            On the down side: Rachel McAdams is forced to overact during the prolonged scenes that connect the eruptions of laughter; Diane Keaton is uncharacteristically contained for most of the movie; Harrison Ford's unrelieved grumpiness is sustained almost past our ability to endure it. It is a certainty that we will be rescued by transformation. When it comes, Ford and Keaton blend happily with McAdams to bring the movie home.
            Unstoppable invites us aboard a runaway train and holds us there for a full tension soaked two hours. No matter how many times you remind yourself that the premise and its execution are ridiculous, chances are you won't relax for a minute. Why does this one work? Photography and soundtrack are two good reasons. Director Tony Scott pounds our ears with the overwhelming noise of stressed metal: wheels on rails, couplings jammed together, engines colliding with cars. While all this unfolds, the camera jumps amongst frightening close-ups of trouble. Add to the up-side Denzel Washington and Chris Pine as the only possible barriers to catastrophe. Can they stop this 39 car bullet train that is not just coasting but is empowered by its engine due to failures by a dweebish engineer who ignored all safeguards when he left the cab. Did I forget to mention that cars 7 - 10 contain toxic, flammable, molten phenol and that the train must pass through 173 railroad crossings until it approaches an elevated curve in a populated town where it will be going far too fast to stay on track?
                It's a nice twist to the tension that no one is trying to kill anyone else. This is two guys and a community against doom. Denzel Washington's natural dignity and presence make all this seem perfectly plausible - until you think about it. Chris Pine is terrific as his buddy, so is Rosario Dawson as a railroad yard master trying to direct the men by phone. The fact that the three are credible even when the circumstances aren't, allows us to root heartily for their safety. Of such emotional entanglements are good action movies made.


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