Speed ★★★★

Jan de Bont’s Speed is, without a shadow of a doubt, the epitome of action movies that free to air television channels repeat 3 times a month, once at prime-time on a Sunday night, and then the other two at ridiculously absurd morning sessions when only grubby post middle-aged men who live alone and have their eyes widened by the caffeine in their Monsters and hands in their pants are alive to it. However, this doesn’t mean that me, as someone who owns this film on DVD, can’t, couldn’t and didn’t have a good time with it on a Monday night at 8pm, on my own. 

I’ve heard mixed things about this film. I’ve heard its an action epic of the ages that must be seen by all who grace God’s not-that-green-anymore Earth, I’ve heard it’s a fun time but a bit samey in the grand scheme of thriller, genre cinema and I’ve also heard that it’s a pile of horseshit that isn’t worthy of the light of day. Mind you, I couldn’t provide evidence for that last one, but those people 100% exist. Well, I think Speed is (you guessed it) somewhere between the first two.

After making an enemy of crazed, bomb fanatic Howard Payne (played excellently by Dennis Hopper), Keanu Reeves’ Jack Traven is out for a stern talking to, as our insane crook devises a plan to strap a bomb to an inner-city LA bus, that is set to explode if said vehicle drops below 50mph. When my brother and I bought this film from the second-hand shop at the start of the year it was the result of our father hyping it up as a jolly good time with a unique premise.

Well, Speed was certainly a good time. De Bont managed to create an engaging and distinctive action film that is, for the most part, an absolute joy to watch. The special effects team on the project absolutely killed the game – this movie had a technical brilliance to it that (no pun intended) blew me away and I for sure was not expecting it. The explosions, clever use of stop-motion models and various set pieces were all remarkably done. Cleverly, writer Graham Yost split this film into three clear acts, with the first surrounding an elevator hostage situation, the second (and best) the iconic bus and the third an underground passenger train.
Now, splitting your movie up like this, especially one that relies on adrenaline and intense stake-fuelled thrills, is something I think is quite wise. It allowed for the audience to have a much-needed break after such set pieces because once you’re in it, there’s no real escaping it. However, I think Speed suffered a little bit from a film team trying to stretch out their project beyond a favourable length. The first scenario, although not as engaging as the second, is necessary in building the relationship between Jack and his partner Harry and ends in just the right amount of time.

The thing is, the actual bus thriller section of Speed was so good, but if the filmmakers knew there was a whole third act yet to come, then they made it go for too long, which is a shame. For the act of the film that is most iconic and certainly the biggest selling point, I find it strange that Yost felt the need to drown out its fun and exciting feature with a third act that is both less engaging and definitely less memorable. This movie had no right to be nearly 2 hours long and unfortunately, it suffers because of it. 

On the plus side, there was some really good thematic stuff with Jack and Harry that was successfully illustrated and consistently carried throughout the running time. Notions such as means to an end, sacrifice, good vs evil. These are all ideas we’ve seen before (for me, the most recent Mission: Impossible movies shared these same ones, to an extent, and I only just finished them) but it was a welcome addition to the stressfest that was Speed

Finally, Keanu Reeves’ performance was just bearable. I wanted to jolt some life into him, and he certainly didn’t make the cheesy dialogue any more excusable. The relationship he forms with Sandra Bullock’s Annie was kinda cute but felt pretty forced. Thankfully, Yost was aware of its potentially unrealistic representation, so the conversation between the two regarding it’s spontaneity was quite funny.

Speed turned into the generic hostage thriller I thought it was going to be by the end of it, although the mix-matched, unwanted conclusion wasn’t enough to ruin my experience. Jan De Bont turned a cool idea into a cool movie, that had me thrilled and engaged, which is all you could really ask for out of a film surrounding bombing a bus. You can sleep soundly if you haven’t seen this, however, or even if you plan never to.

4/5 Cornflakes

(Had an epic score too)

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