When a young Los Angeles police department, Special Weapons and Tactics (S.W.A.T.) officer called Jack Traven angers retired Atlanta police department bomb squad member Howard Payne, by foiling his attempt at taking hostages stuck in an elevator with a bomb, Payne in retaliation arms a bus with a bomb that will explode if it drops below 50 miles per hour. With the help of spunky passenger Annie, Jack and his partner Detective Harry Temple try to save the people on the bus before the bomb goes off, while also trying to figure out how Payne is monitoring them.Written by
A film truck is reflected in the bus's bumper when Jack exits and steps onto the Suburban. See more »
Hey, this area's restricted.
Oh, hi. Yeah, I know. They called me down here. Some of this wiring got screwed up.
Nobody called it down to me. I'm going to have to see a work order.
Yeah, just a second. There you are.
[stabs workman in the ear with a screwdriver]
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Theatrical version had the 1981 20th Century Fox logo at the opening. All VHS, Laserdisc and DVD versions plaster this with the 1994 CGI logo (with the 1981 fanfare) that was used until 2009. However, the Blu-ray release restores the original 1981 logo. See more »
Speed is one of my favorite action movies of all time, just a notch below contemporaries like Terminator 2 and Die Hard. The premise is so simple that it's almost a parody of movie pitches (Homer Simpson's line was "I saw this movie about a bus that had to SPEED around a city, keeping its SPEED over fifty, and if its SPEED dropped, it would explode! I think it was called 'The Bus That Couldn't Slow Down'."). Fortunately this film came to be much better than the sum of its parts, and it's deservedly remembered as one of the most entertaining films of the 90s.
What distinguishes Speed is its humanity, due in no small part to the character of Annie (Sandra Bullock). The best example of this is the moment when Annie, while driving the bus, thinks she has struck a baby stroller. She becomes so distraught that she lets go of the steering wheel, never mind the fact that she is in charge of driving a bomb-laden bus through the L.A. suburbs. It's one of several moments that draw us into the film by helping us identify with the characters, and it's all the more elegant for its simplicity. This movie isn't complex, but it doesn't claim to be.
There is a certain irony that Speed succeeds so well on a human level, since Jan de Bont is not generally considered an "actor's director". He started as a cinematographer, and even when he talks about directing he discusses technical aspects and seldom mentions working with actors. Nowhere was this more evident than Speed 2, which pretty much killed his directorial career. Given that, it's all the more remarkable what he pulled off in the original Speed, as everything seemed to come together for him.
The overall performances really serve this picture well. Keanu is at his best (which is to say, mediocre), Sandra launched a career based on this movie, and Dennis Hopper did a wonderful job as the sardonic villain. Plus he has one of my favorite bad-guy lines of all time (Traven: "You're crazy." Payne: "Poor people are crazy, Jack. I'm eccentric.").
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