Speed

Speed ★★★★★

JMN's Fuzzball Marathon:
Day #47 - Speed (1994)

"Pop quiz, hotshot..."

Case report: An L.A. SWAT Officer must prevent a bomber from blowing up a city bus. However, the bus is rigged to explode if its speed falls below 50 mph.

Exhibit A: the trailer.

Arresting officers: Keanu Reeves stars as Officer Jack Traven; Jeff Daniels plays Jack's partner, Officer Harry Temple.

Verdict: In many ways, Speed feels like a spiritual successor to Die Hard. Like many 90's action films, its beautifully simple premise boils down to the cliched tagline, "It's Die Hard on a ______!" But unlike a lot of its contemporaries, Speed actually does something unique with that premise, creating an iconography all its own.

Speed's screenplay is perfectly constructed. Each act throws another incredible set piece at the audience (and escalates the tension appropriately), the pace is relentless, and the dialogue sparkles throughout. The direction by Die Hard cinematographer Jan De Bont is similarly great: like John McTiernan, De Bont always keeps the camera moving, but in order to maintain the flow of the action, rather than to obstruct it. And he chucks in a ton of lens flares too, which are amazing.

Exhibit B: "Main Title" by Mark Mancina.

Exhibit C: "Speed" by Billy Idol.

Plaudits must go to the cast as well. Sandra Bullock makes female lead Annie insanely likeable; Dennis Hopper's main villain is mad as eggs; and Jeff Daniels gets to be his usual awesome self as Jack's partner Harry (can you believe this came out the same year as Dumb and Dumber? That dude has range). And of course, you have Keanu Reeves. God, I love him. Keanu continues the winning streak he began with Point Break, further proving himself as one of the most reliable action stars of the past quarter-century, while also doing for white t-shirts what Bruce Willis did for vests.

Speed is one of the biggest and most fondly remembered action movies of the 1990's, and to my mind, one of the most enjoyable mid-budget blockbusters of that decade.

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