Speed (1994)

Rating: 15
Length: 1h 56
Release: 30.9.1994
Dir: Jan de Bont
About: A disgruntled, dangerous man plants a bomb in an elevator. When his mission fails, he plants a bomb in a local bus and threatens to set it off unless his demand is met.

The Good

  • I love the music. While it doesn’t have the iconic status of Jaws, Jurassic Park or … anything by John Williams, it still packs punch and pulls the audience into a scene. And it starts with those impeccably 90’s opening titles. You know you’re going into something. There will be no easing into a situation, the audience hits the ground running and that score makes sure that your body knows that.
  • As I said, the audience go straight in and meet the bad guy before anyone else. No holding back. Well, except for who he actually is and what he wants. Dennis Hopper has everything you need for this sort of villain, the main thing being a distinctive voice. While the audience do get to see him a lot of his communication is done solely through audio, so the voice has to be right.
  • The film has so many instances and dialogue that may not seem like much, but do have call backs either almost instantly, or later in the film. It helps develop the thread running through the film.
  • The cast is awesome. There’s not a single person I’d replace. It goes without saying that Reeves and Bullock are perfect in their lead roles so I’m going to gush about two others.
    Firstly, there’s Alan Ruck. Its not the biggest of parts, but he has some excellent interactions within the main act. My favourite moment comes when he’s relaying Jack’s description of the bomb. He can’t bring himself to say what Jack had, so instead utters “oh, darn.” which gives us quite a lot about the character.
  • There is also my favourite character, Harry. Played by the wonderful Jeff Daniels. The chemistry he has with Reeves equates to what we would now call a bromance and I’m sold. There’s a moment in the first act when both Jack and Harry need to descend to the access point of the lift and its in that moment one takes to the cables like they’re a fireman’s pole, the other uses the ladder. This indication that Harry doesn’t jump in and, as a result, isn’t as reckless as Jack has a rather sad payoff towards the end of the film. None of which I think is possible without Jeff Daniels in the role.
    While he isn’t as prominent after the first act, he is crucial to the plot and the mindset of the character of Jack. You do feel his absence from Jack’s side, but he’s still very much working with him. Right up until the point Harry doesn’t look at where he’s going. That close up we’re given gets me every single time.
  • The film does gauge how long its focus should be on the bus. Just as I find myself drifting, the stakes are changed and the goalpost is moved; giving the audience a bit of an adrenaline jolt.

The Bad

  • The ‘Annie reveal’ in the final act doesn’t sit right with me. It’s edited in a way that makes me think I’m meant to, even for a spilt second, think that she is in some way involved. However, there needs to be some more editing for that to work, given that we see her interaction with Payne and therefore know she’d never met him before. I know there was original plans to have it revealed that Harry was working with Payne, perhaps this edit is what remains of a plan to have *someone* double cross Jack.

The Ugly

  • The final act Vs the bus jump. For me, one of them has to go. While the bus jump gives us that great visual, I’m not sure what else you can put in the final act that would give us the resolution we need. Perhaps have it that there’s another set of cars on the track at the next station?! Doesn’t seem as good as “the track’s not finished yet.”
    As it stands its two overly identical situations and it almost gives the audience fatigue. The set up is the same, the way out of the situation is the same and the success only varies slightly.

Final Thoughts

I love this movie. I only watched it a few days ago and I already want to watch it again. Boiling it down to “Die Hard on a bus” doesn’t do this film nearly enough justice as it’s execution goes beyond that.

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