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It’s been a while since I took a ride with SPEED and re-watching the now 20-year old film with fresh eyes, I was thrilled to discover that it holds up extremely well and is still as fun and energetic as always.
Having thwarted Howard Payne (Dennis Hopper), a mad bomber from ransoming off hostages trapped in an office-building elevator, L.A. Bomb Squad specialist Jack Traven (Keanu Reeves) gets caught up in the villain’s next diabolical plot.
Payne has wired a public bus with explosives and if the bus’ speed dips below 50 miles per hour it will explode. Pay the ransom and he’ll deactivate the bomb. Soon it’s a race against time and the congested L.A. traffic to keep the bus at maximum speed until they can save the passenger’s lives.
What makes SPEED work is Graham Yost’s inventive script and the balls to the wall direction of (DIE HARD vet cinematographer) Jan de Bont. For a premise that is a tough pill to swallow, as well as hard to sustain (especially for an almost 2 hour film), the filmmakers manage to pull it off with flair and bravado.
Not as tight as the seminal DIE HARD that this film takes its cue from, SPEED takes its time to set up the main characters with an equally thrilling opening sequence before getting to the main event. We instantly understand Jack, who makes the tough decisions that ultimately saves lives, but does it with a recklessness that could just as easily bite him in the ass.
As one of the passengers on the doomed bus, SPEED put Sandra Bullock on the map and made her a bona-fide movie star. She is absolutely charming as the plucky Annie but still plays vulnerable like nobody’s business. Reeves shows that he can carry an action film though he still suffers from a number of Reeve-isms that have marked his career as an actor.
SPEED is a MUST SEE ACTION MOVIE and a fun summer action film that even though is a little overly earnest at times (as well as flagrantly defying the laws of gravity) still thrills and entertains.