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Stewart Smith

Speed

Wow! I can’t believe it’s been so long since I posted a review! My New Year’s resolution – post new reviews more often!  There will be more reviews coming soon but, in the meantime, here’s a review for an older movie I recently watched on Netflix.

In the action-thriller film Speed (1994), a terrorist (Dennis Hopper) rigs a city bus to explode if its speed goes under 50 mph. Let’s say you’re hurtling down a street at 50 mph alongside a line of 13 kids (average height at age 13) lying end-to-end in a straight line. Your car would race past them within a second.* So you can imagine how difficult it would be to maneuver the bus, diffuse the bomb, and move people on and off the bus.

In the film, L.A. cop Jack (Keanu Reeves) manages to get on the bus, with help from a passenger Annie (Sandra Bullock) to stop the bomb from exploding. The two stars of this film were really “accelerated” in their acting careers by this sudden hit. (Bullock has since won a Best Actress Oscar for The Blind Side. Reeves went on to star in many other hits including The Matrix.)

Directed by Jan de Bont, Speed is full of remarkable excitement, and action is kept at a quick pace. The cinematography (Andrzej Bartkowiak) is sublime, and the music keeps up a flamboyant tension. Some things did seem a bit cliche, however. There were a few plot holes that confused me greatly. For instance, nobody even considered the option of paying the bomber his ransom. It wasn’t even mentioned.

At the start of the film, several people are trapped in an elevator for ransom. The officers who are trying to free them say that in three minutes they will all be killed. Well, if there are really three minutes left, then wouldn’t the negotiators be going crazy? Or at least, thinking about options like delivering the money?

I thought of the film The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974) about a hostage situation in a subway tunnel. What I liked about that film is that it covered all the bases. Unlike Speed, that film really made me feel the awkward position of a hostage negotiator. It felt realistic and was heavy on the emotional side of storytelling more than the action side.

The villain’s backstory in Speed is left largely unaddressed. They mention little details – only those that point towards his location, but we never get a motive or any kind of painful instance that would be traumatic enough to make a man so violent. I think villains in films like Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight are a lot more interesting, an absolutely wonderful film with a terrific antagonist.

Although Speed isn’t a very insightful film, it still has an active, exciting tone that really builds up suspense in a unique and unpredictable manner, which is absolutely brilliant.

Age Recommendation: Speed is very dramatic, and feels very intense. I would have children who watch it to be old enough to understand the course of events without panicking too much. Everyone else should take some time beforehand to really get to know the idea of such fast motion – such as I did with my schoolchildren analogy – so that you panic even more!

Final Verdict: As a thriller, it certainly kept pace, though it lacked in some key plot aspects. Still, it’s a worthy watch. 7/10.

*My mathematical standpoint – Feel free to correct any mistakes: 50mph is about four-fifths of a mile per minute. A mile is 5,280 feet. So if you multiply 5,280 by four-fifths, and then divide that by 60 (seconds in a minute), you get the number of feet per second covered at 50mph, which just happens to be a little more than 70 feet.


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