DIRECTOR: Jan De Bont
May contain spoilers!
Noted action DOP (Director Of Photography) Jan De Bont’s directorial breakthrough, Speed sounded ridiculous at the time of its release and let’s face it, the concept of a bus maintain a speed of over 50mph or it will explode, still does!
But somehow, there is more to it than that, a lot more. There is a plausible plot, fun characters, great action augmented with kinetic pacing and a lot of heart to boot. Following on from Keanu Reeves’ cheesy turn in Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), a couple of years earlier, he was back into his Point Break (1991) knuckle-head surfer cop persona, that again, seems to imply some semblance of intelligence is lying beneath his chiselled features.
But there is little point in dwelling on Reeves’ acting skills and he is a somewhat charismatic persona more than anything else and it is that which works here. His chemistry with Sandra Bullock, who outclasses him as the impromptu bus driver tasked with keeping the bus running, is undeniable.
It is the action which propels this plot however, as the bus with a speed activated bomb on board must traverse the busy streets of L.A., unfinished free-ways and airports runways before a tube station finale which unfortunately, looks a little too much like Batman Begin’s (2005) train crash ending for my liking. Shame on you Nolan.
Overall, even after 20 years have passed, Speed has still got it. It is a 90’s movie through and through but in a similar way to that of Casablanca (1942) being indicative of the 40’s, Speed is a classic with simple themes and a high concept, one which has been much parodied in the decades since, as well as a real sense of pace.
Jan De Bont may not have proven to be great director, with Twister sealing his fate in 1997, but Speed is great film and defiantly his best.