A young police officer must prevent a bomb exploding aboard a city bus by keeping its speed above 50 mph.A young police officer must prevent a bomb exploding aboard a city bus by keeping its speed above 50 mph.A young police officer must prevent a bomb exploding aboard a city bus by keeping its speed above 50 mph.
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.").
- Mar 1, 2005