TBT: Speed (1994)
So as we move further into September, I may as well come up with a name for this batch of TBT posts. Let’s go ahead and call this month something pretty cheesy, say something like: ‘Movies that Really Move.’ I’ve wrestled with a bunch of different names for these throwbacks, and so far that’s the one description which I feel suits this particular theme the best — films that feature car chases, races and fast paces. We started off with a look at Days of Thunder, an excellent film based around NASCAR racing and starring the world’s most endearing scientologist, Mr. Tom Cruise. This week, we jump forward another four years and examine one of the all-time best adrenaline flicks ever made. Part-car-chase movie and part-psychological-thriller, the throwback of today does indeed have a sequel, but we are all going to just ignore that fact since A) the quality of the sequel is enough to make me shudder just thinking about it, and B) we can only focus on one product at a time, fortunately.
Today’s food for thought: Speed.
Release: June 10, 1994
A bus filled with random strangers must maintain at least 50 miles per hour as it tears through the greater Los Angeles area, otherwise an unseen terrorist hits the detonation button for the bomb he’s strapped to the underside of the vehicle. Keanu Reeves, an L.A.P.D. S.W.A.T. team member, comes to the aid of an interim bus driver (Sandra Bullock) as she attempts to steer the bus without slowing down and killing everyone on board.
Just before this film debuted all the way back in the mid-90s, I can only imagine the amount of sneering and chuckling the title must have garnered from its critics. I can’t say definitely what the atmosphere was like surrounding the release — I was 8 years old at the time. What the film then turned out to be — an instant classic, one which set the standard for many action-thriller films to come (even if said standard has rarely ever been reached or surpassed since) — was probably hardly what anyone expected at first. How can such a simplistic plot yield such an incredibly entertaining ride?
I may not be speaking for anyone else, but each time I watch this movie I feel as though I’m binging on adrenaline.
Directed by Jan de Bont, Speed is fast, intelligent and well-acted. It is arguably his best effort to date, and likely the best he might ever put out. His direction takes full advantage of the chaos one might expect to be present in a story that pits the good guys against a determined and well-prepared villain (played by none other than Dennis Hopper — we miss you, Dennis). On one level, there’s the terror that comes along with blasting down busy roads at 50-plus-miles an hour; on the next, the bomber can see everything that is going on, and part of the trick of his game is that if he sees anyone escaping the situation he’ll blow the bus by remote detonation. The third level is a little more psychological. Even though the motivation for Howard Payne (Hopper)’s plan isn’t the most unique — as a former member of the L.A.P.D. himself, all Payne wanted was his retirement benefits. The more Jack Traven (Reeves) deals with the situation and with the man behind it, he realizes how intelligent his rival is, and that he knows the ins-and-outs of the city as well as anyone. Not to mention, he’s simply nuts. . . principally the reason he was let go from the force. Given all of this, the film possesses a rare level of excitement that a great many films seem to not bother investing the time into developing. (Are you listening, Getaway?)
In this edition of TBT let’s do things a little differently. Included below are five of the best still images from the classic film that came out almost 20 years ago. The idea here is for you, my adrenaline-junkie readers, to provide your most creative captions for these photos in twenty words or fewer. I will stand back and watch the chaos unfold — only chiming in in the comment section following YOUR GREAT CAPTIONS (let’s try to keep them PG-13). This should be a really fun and challenging way to go back and look at one of the most incredible action-thrillers ever made. Let the captioning begin….
That does it for TBT this week. Thanks for reading and participating peeps! Hopefully it was as fun for you as it was for Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock. And of course, me.
Recommendation: Speed is quite simply a classic. My recommendation would be one simple suggestion: watch it again….because I don’t think it’s possible for someone to not have seen this film.
Running Time: 116 mins.