Summer of Action: Speed (1994)
Our Summer of Action series is unfortunately coming to an end this week with a look at the 1994 action thriller, Speed. Directed by Jan de Bont and written by Graham Yost, it follows the story of an LAPD cop who tries to rescue civilians from a bus that is programmed to explode if it slows down below 50 mph. The film stars Keanu Reeves as the heroic cop, Jack Traven, and Sandra Bullock as one of the bus passengers, Annie. The film’s cast also includes Dennis Hopper, Joe Morton, Jeff Daniels, and Alan Ruck. This action film was a surprise hit and ended up grossing $350 million in its theatrical run. It also went on to win Academy Awards for Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing. Its success also brought about a sequel: Speed 2: Cruise Control, which is unfortunately considered one of the worst sequels of all time.
So, why does Speed manage to rank among the best action movies?
1) Opening Elevator Attack
I know the name of the movie is Speed and focuses primarily on this bus in a rather precarious situation, but the opening sequence is pretty enticing. It’s a nice introduction to Reeves’ character, Jack, and his partner, Harry, and it’s a decent setup for the conflict that is to come. However, it mostly just has some fun action scenes for our hero. He runs across rooftops, slides down elevator pulleys, conceptualizes an ingenious plan to save the hostages, and is lowered down to an elevator Mission: Impossible style.
Plus, he ends up saving Harry at the end of this sequence, so all in all, this is a great opening scene that pulls in the audience.
2) A Few Unbelievable Sequences
Let’s be honest: this film is filled with some unbelievable sequences that you cannot help but love. Perhaps the most iconic of these sequences, though, is the jumping of the gap on the highway. It’s fairly amazing to see that bus fly through the air without an incline and still safely land on the other side. This is also the same movie that has a train crashing through areas without taking out any bystanders as well as a guy jumping out of a plane’s cockpit after it has exploded. These are all fun and exciting sequences, and while they can be laughable at time, they are still immensely exciting to enjoy.
3) No Lack of Action or Tension
Overall, though, the hallmark of Speed is how it manages to keep you constantly on the edge of your seat. The villain always seems to be one step ahead throughout most of the story, and that fact coupled with lots of potential explosions keeps the tension high. Also, this film lives up to the label of an action film. It has exploding buses, trains, and elevators. There are chase sequences, though not in the typical fashion, and there are high stakes in every situation. Also, they manage to add in another action-filled sequence on the train after the audience already believes everyone is safe following the ordeal on the bus.
So, is Speed on your list of favorite action films? What are some of your favorite moments from the film?
Be sure to share them in the comments below, and be on the lookout next Friday as we launch a brand new blog series for the month of September.
Mollie is a film enthusiast, aspiring writer/screenwriter, and a lover of all things Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Doctor Who. She is the co-founder of The Digital Shore (@thedigitalshore) and Above The Line (@atl_movies). You can follow her many adventures through Twitter and Instagram at @mcbeach.