May 14: Speed | A Movie Featuring Public Transportation
In the category of A Movie Featuring Public Transportation, Max has chosen Speed (1994), directed by Jan de Bont, written by Graham Yost, and starring Keanu Reeves, Dennis Hopper, Sandra Bullock, and Jeff Daniels.
We’ve watched quite a few stinkers in our time on the podcast. Some things we’ve learned are pacing, tension, threat, and rising action can make or break a movie. With lackluster writing, you’ll quickly realize that the threat is not constant enough. If you make your conflict high enough, and the story just comes together. At least, that’s the case with Speed.
Starring Keanu Reeves, Sandra Bullock, Dennis Hopper, and Jeff Daniels, this film doesn’t break the mold for action thrillers — but what it does is work within that very mold to create a high-octane thrill ride that will have you white-knuckled and screaming at the TV.
We meet our heroic cops as they diffuse a hostage situation involving an elevator. The man behind the attack fakes his death, and then plays a cat and mouse game with Jack (Reeves). This escalates into a sick game that drives Jack to board a bus
One of the reasons why is because the film knows how to build suspense, and it does so in the classic way that Hitchcock championed: the audience will know what is coming before the characters do. If there’s a bomb, we as the viewer see the behind the scenes action or a close-up of the device before Jack ever comes across it. What this does is use the time and pacing of the action to build our own fear.
Graham Yost wrote Speed after deciding that Jon Voight’s Runaway Train was missing something — a bomb, that is. So he wrote his version of what should happen in such a scenario. Later on during shooting, the dialogue would get a rewrite from Joss Whedon, which explains why these characters are just so damn fun to watch.
It’s a testament to the film that almost a quarter of a century later, everything still works. While technology has admittedly changed, the use of it within the film is even smart — early 90s cell phones and video technology are present, as well as some digital capabilities within the police station. Best of all, the pacing works, the twists and turns are thrilling, and the situational anxiety hits you like a ton of bricks.
Best of all, this film made Sandra Bullock a household name. While she had already been in Demolition Man, Speed was her breakout role that made her the powerhouse leading lady she would grow to become. Her character Annie is not just charming and plucky, but she keeps a cool head throughout every incident. There’s some nineties action romance thrown in between her and Reeves, and they’re both just so cute together that it works just fine.
Our villain was played by Dennis Hopper, who had a playfully evil repertoire with the police throughout the story. There are a few tropes involved with his story, but the action moves so fast that you don’t even mind.
I don’t really have much as far as negatives for this movie. It was damn fun, and kept me glued to my seat the whole time. If you enjoy action films like Die Hard, you’ll have a blast watching Speed. If you like Unstoppable, you’ll love Speed.
Now we should probably mention the universally panned sequel at this point. Speed 2: Cruise Control tried to recreate the magic of a speeding highway by moving the action… to a boat. Reeves also didn’t return, so he was replaced with Jason Patric playing a new character. I give them points for a great title, but I watched a portion of that film back in the day on HBO. It wasn’t very good.
Want to keep up with the rest of our scavenger hunt? Check out the rest of our May Movie Challenge here.
Max is a marketing copywriter by day, filmmaker and screenwriter by night. He resides in Charlotte, NC, and loves his dogs, watching movies, building LEGO sets, and eating food. Lots of food.You can find Max at his personal website and twitter.