Speed is what thrilling high-octane action blockbusters are all about...
Often, when movies are released, the majority of them involve stories that are familiar for the most part. They features plots and characters that movies of the same genre have already presented in some form, and such movies are expected to have cliches and conventions defined by the genre. But once in a while, a movie is released with such a clever and original idea that people will want to see it, and when they do, it just blows them away. A great example of this is the 1994 action-thriller film Speed, which no fan of action movies should miss.
Just think about its premise for a moment. You have a terrorist and extortionist who threatens to kill people in a way never before seen. Imagine that a bomb is strapped to a bus and is activated when the speed of the bus reaches 50 miles per hour. Now imagine that the bomb won't go off until the speed goes below 50 miles per hour. If you think that's scary, get a load of this. The madman can see whether there is any attempt to get the passengers off the bus that has no choice but to keep going very fast. He can blow up the bus himself if he sees any rescue attempt happening. And as the final clincher, he demands a three-million-dollar ransom that shall be delivered to him in about two and a half hours.
That's a pretty ingenious setup, don't you think? Now, before I discuss the story, let me introduce the characters. Keanu Reeves is Los Angeles SWAT officer Jack Traven, a guy who doesn't hesitate to find unconventional solutions to difficult problems. One of his allies is Jeff Daniels as LAPD officer and bomb expert Harry Temple. The terrorist is a guy named Howard Payne, played by Dennis Hopper. And then there is Sandra Bullock, who appears in the bus scenario as a woman named Annie and an unexpected ally to Jack.
Although the runaway bus is the focus of this film, that plot doesn't begin right away. Instead, the movie begins with Payne trapping people in an elevator, followed by Jack and Harry performing a daring rescue operation. Because the police foil Payne's elevator scheme, he gets revenge by blowing up a bus. Jack just happens to be nearby when this happens, and immediately, he is contacted by Payne via telephone. That's when Jack learns about Payne's horrifying scheme with a bomb on a bus. Payne even tells Jack which bus in the city has the bomb, figuring that he'll have the upper hand even if Jack tries to foil him again.
With that, Jack drives to the bus as it is moving, and then the action begins. I'm not going to say anything more on this for obvious reasons. Instead, let me just give you an idea of what this thrill ride feels like. It follows a general pattern of moments where Jack takes a logical step towards diffusing the situation alternating with moments where unexpected complications set in. About 90% of the bus scenario involves constant suspense and anticipation of what's to come. There are brief scenes that take place away from the bus, but they are fairly quick and are related to helping Jack in any way possible.
A better way to put it is this. The film's pacing is like that of the bus. In other words, the bus has to go fast without slowing down too much because the passengers' lives are at stake, and the film has to go fast without slowing down too much because the audience's enjoyment cannot be interrupted. Naturally, words that typically describe great action movies can apply here: high-octane, edge-of-your-seat, adrenaline rush, etc. Thanks to the premise of the runaway bus with a bomb, the movie easily propels itself into the upper ranks of action films.
If there is any flaw I would like to point out, it's the acting. It could be better in some cases, particularly for Keanu Reeves and, to a certain degree, Dennis Hopper. But given that this movie is meant to be a popcorn movie and summer blockbuster, who cares? The only criteria for judging a movie like this is how much it grips the audience and doesn't let go. I'm happy to say that Speed does just that. It had so many great moments of excitement that I cannot help but give it my highest rating. Not surprisingly, everyone I know who had seen this movie loved it and even wondered why I didn't see it sooner. So take that as a sign. Speed is an unforgettable action movie, one that truly lives up to its title.
For more information about Speed, visit the Internet Movie Database.