“ Genre: Action & Adventure / Theatrical Release: 1994 / Suitable for 15 years and over / Director: Jan De Bont / Actors: Keanu Reeves, Dennis Hopper, Sandra Bullock, Jeff Daniels, Joe Morton ... / Blu-ray released 2007-03-12 at 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment / Features of the Blu-ray: Anamorphic, PAL „
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It's hard to believe that this film was released back in 1994, okay it's been on the TV a multitude of times and edited in parts to be shown on TV earlier than the 9pm watershed, but the problem is that this film is addictive to watch and as you watch it you seem to become immersed in the story itself. Speed is a high octane old fashioned 20th century film that I still like to watch, the reason is simple. It's just fun, it tells the story of a Los Angeles cop, Jack Travers, who as part of the LA Bomb Squad, thwarting the plans of a bomber in a down town skyscraper, with the help of his partner Harry Temple free the hostages from a lift just before the bomb explodes and the lift plummets to the ground. Realising that the bomber is still in the building, Jack and Harry decide to give chase, in a stand-off situation with Harry having a gun at his head, Jack decides to even the playing field and shoots his colleague in the leg, the bomber appears to commit suicide. The next day as Jack goes to work a bus explodes just outside a coffee shop, nearby a phone rings and Jack answers it, it's the bomber and this time Jack becomes the hunted rather than the hunter as he is told that another bus will explode if his demands aren't met, the catch being if the bus falls under 50mph in speed then the bomb will go off.
I did notice that the majority of the cast went on to bigger things after this film, for example Keanu Reeves plays Jack Travers. This for me was a revelation seeing him as the lead hero, okay so he had made Point Break before this one, but the character is totally different to his previous roles, cropped hairstyle, intelligent and experienced in his job. A complete flipside to Bill and Ted and his role in Speed would act as a foundation to his role he played The Matrix trilogy. At the start of the film he brash and cocky and once he has been "given" the task of the runner and problem solver the character tends to grow up quite quickly.
Co-starring with Reeves in the film is Sandra Bullock, her role as Annie was carried over into the sequel which was good but as is always the case that the sequel doesn't quite match up to the original. Her part is more comedy relief and the introduction of her character is something that the film manages to build very quickly as her personality and demeanour is given to the audience on a plate right from her first shot. This was Bullock's big break and in the film she is the one who deserves to get this for her part. Also it's plainly obvious that she becomes the love interest. Thirdly we have the bomber himself played by veteran actor Dennis Hopper who acts his socks off throughout the scenes he is in; for the most part he is the protagonist in charge of the proceedings, finely homed and requires applying quite a bit of micro-management to get what he wants. Jeff Daniels plays Harry, Jacks colleague and although he is injured in the first part of the film he does come back into it as the partner that watches Jack's back and so the pair are split up. His reaction when Jack shoots him in the leg is priceless and although this doesn't set the tone at that point, you do get the impression the two are close in terms of their working relationship.
The premise of the film is fresh and is extremely exciting to watch being played out, the emphasis is on mind games and the problems occur when either Jack or the bomber are trying to get the better of each other as the film plays out, this really does give the story a psychological edge that gives the film as a whole more dimension and basically makes the film interesting instead of one character being the single point throughout the film. The main character is not the only story in the film and the bus that the bomb is on plays a vital part in the plot itself as the claustrophobic area of the bus is used to some extent to convey the tension and also the emotions that the passengers are going through. With the bus being the point of focus for at least half the film the actions sequences are top notch and this includes the effort in trying to keep the bus at the required speed and also attempts to free the hostages, these are done in a clever manner which although diversionary in manner is something that the viewer watching will be sitting on the edge of their seat. The tension and suspense that is built up as the film steadily evolves is something that a lot of film makers could easily use as a reference to use and see as an example as to how an action thriller should be made. The story tends to take in a lot of Los Angeles and thankfully the action isn't as simple as the bus being driven around the same areas with different camera angles used, in fact the bus goes on motorways, fly overs and ends up at the airport, as the theme throughout seems to be movement and transportation. The climax of the story not only seals this but resolves a lot of issues in spectacular fashion and again shows what can be done if the thought processes are aligned. For me watching the film, it has to be a number of things that simply just bond to make this film something special to watch. One of these is the direction - Jan De Bont was a well-known cinematographer before Speed and here he takes the helm as director. I like what he has done; a lot of the shots are simple but complimented with angular shots that show the audience the entire situation, even managing to capture shots from under a bus or beneath a lift, the music by Mark Macina delivers a repetitive beat that is used at the right points and in the right places, this is effectively Jack's theme and is used throughout in the right places, I noted it was interesting that the music wasn't used in some scenes at all and this tends to elevate the scene even more and give it more strength. Lastly the opening titles are shown from inside the lift shaft where Harry and Jack start the adventure. Overlaid with a powerful opening score the film immediately gets the heart beating as this tell the viewer that this is going to be a rollercoaster ride.
Okay this is a Blu-ray release and so the picture quality and definition are of the highest quality possible, sound wise the noise is rather chaotic, especially in the gunfights where I was ducking for cover as bullets seemed to be flying around the room with high intensity such was the quality of the soundtrack, surprisingly I had heard things that I hadn't done before like background conversation in the brief coffee shop scenes that bough the film alive. Documentaries on this release are the same as the VHS! This was made of a Billy Idol music video and a documentary about the making of the film, however additionally there are more extras that you would expect to have on the second disc including a breakdown of stunts performed in the film, and interviews with the cast and director that give some idea as to why certain decisions were made. With the obligatory deleted scenes and also a photo gallery included I was impressed and spent over an hour going through these and have yet to play the commentary as well.
Overall this is a good film and a Blu-ray package that is worth buying, not only does the film work on many levels, with a good mix of action, suspense and a sprinkling of comedy as well. The film can easily be considered to be an edge of the seat thriller and definitely a film that breaks the mould, bottom line is that as soon as the titles finish then it goes up a gear and never really stops till the end titles have elapsed. A sure fire Saturday night winner! Just a shame the sequel that Reeves didn't want to be involved wasn't the same.