Speed (1994 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Jan de Bont|
|Produced by||Mark Gordon|
|Written by||Graham Yost|
|Music by||Mark Mancina|
|Editing by||John Wright|
|Studio||Mark Gordon Productions|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Running time||116 minutes|
Speed is a 1994 American action-thriller film directed by Jan de Bont. LAPD officer Jack Traven becomes the focus of a bomber and extortionist, retired Atlanta bomb squad sergeant Howard Payne. After Payne escapes his first entanglement with Traven, he sets up a bomb on a city bus that Traven boards and must keep moving above 50 miles per hour to keep it from exploding. The film stars Keanu Reeves, Dennis Hopper, Sandra Bullock and Jeff Daniels. It won two Academy Awards, for Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing at the 67th Academy Awards in 1995. The film takes place in Los Angeles in 1993.
An unidentified man (Dennis Hopper) traps several businesspeople inside a skyscraper elevator using small, remotely-detonated bombs. He demands $3 Million, threatening to detonate the emergency brakes that are preventing the elevator from plunging down the shaft. Los Angeles Police Department SWAT members Jack Traven (Keanu Reeves) and Harry Temple (Jeff Daniels) are able to sneak inside the shaft. Though the bomber blows the brakes with three minutes left in the hour-long time limit he gave, Jack and Harry manage to rescue the hostages before the elevator falls. They track the bomber to the building's basement, where the man takes Harry hostage. Jack shoots Harry in the leg (as Harry told him to), forcing the man to drop him. Jack tries to follow, but another explosion occurs and the bomber appears to have been caught in the debris.
Sometime later, Jack and Harry are commended for their actions, and Harry is promoted to detective with a desk job while his leg heals. The morning after the two are honored, Jack witnesses the destruction of a Santa Monica Transit commuter bus, which kills its driver. Answering a nearby ringing payphone, Jack discovers the bomber had escaped the building explosion. The bomber informs him that another bus is rigged with a bomb that will activate when the bus exceeds 50 miles per hour and then will detonate when it falls below that, demands a $3.7 Million ransom to deactivate the device, and warns that he will set it off manually if Jack tries to remove the passengers. Jack races to catch up to the bus and manages to get on, but only after it passes 50 miles per hour.
While Jack explains the situation to the driver Sam (Hawthorne James), a paranoid passenger, thinking Jack is there to arrest him, threatens Jack with a gun and fires, striking Sam in the arm by accident while being subdued. Another passenger, Annie Porter (Sandra Bullock), takes over as Sam is cared for while Jack restrains the paranoid passenger and informs the rest of the situation. With advice from the police, Jack has Annie drive the bus off the busy freeway, through city streets, and eventually onto an incomplete 105 Freeway devoid of traffic. The police soon arrive to escort the bus, while news helicopters fly overhead and report on the story.
Jack, with the help of the passengers, is able to describe the bomb on the undercarriage to Harry; Harry focuses on a cheap gold watch that is part of the bomb's mechanism. Jack convinces the bomber to allow them to offload Sam to a police flatbed truck to get medical attention; but another passenger, Helen, who can't stand to stay on the bus any longer, attempts to follow. Unfortunately, the bomber sees Helen trying to escape and detonates a smaller bomb under the bus' stairs, sending her to the pavement where she is crushed by its tires. Jack assumes the bomber is monitoring the situation, and has the trailing helicopters cleared out.
The police discover that the incomplete freeway has a gap in an overpass, and Jack directs Annie to go at full speed, allowing them to clear it. Shortly after, he sees they are close to Los Angeles International Airport, and directs Annie to it; its tarmac will give them enough clear space to drive while the news helicopters cannot enter the airspace.
Jack, after getting off the bus, then sends himself under the bus via a cart towed from a vehicle leading the bus to try to defuse the bomb with Harry's verbal help to no avail, but Harry's team soon discover the identity of the bomber: Howard Payne, a former police officer who worked on Atlanta's bomb squad, and was forced to retire in 1989 after an explosion caused him to lose a finger. With this knowledge, Harry gets his team to track down Payne's Los Angeles address while telling Jack to stay put. Debris on the tarmac causes the cart to become unsteady, and Jack's only recourse is to puncture the side of the gas tank with a screwdriver to avoid falling under the bus. The passengers use a floor panel to rescue Jack in time.
Meanwhile, Harry and his team arrive at Payne's home, but it is rigged with explosives which go off, killing them. Payne calls into Jack to brag and taunt him of Harry's death and in the process, unintentionally reveals there is a camera inside the bus. Jack gets the police to work with one of the news crews to find the camera's signal, record a sequence of footage, and then rebroadcast that on that channel to falsify the camera signal back to Payne. This allows them to rescue all the passengers safely as the bus' fuel level drains. Jack stays with Annie to keep the bus steady, and then escapes with her using the floor panel. The unmanned bus then runs into the side of an empty cargo plane and explodes.
Following the explosion of the unmanned bus, Annie joins Jack and the police as they wait at the designated drop spot at Pershing Square with marked bills for Payne, since they want to take Payne alive to prevent any more threats he has in store. However, Payne finally discovers the looping feed and sees that the police are waiting for him, much to his anger. Observing Annie nearby, Payne poses as a police officer and leads her away. The police drop the money in a trash can (the designated drop spot), but Jack later finds a hole below it leading to the subway system.
Jack follows and encounters Payne with the money and Annie as his hostage, the latter now wearing a vest lined with explosives that will go off if he drops a trigger on a device he holds. Jack angrily demands Payne to let Annie go, saying that he can get away with the money, but Payne refuses, still threatening to drop the trigger. Payne then drags Annie onto a subway train, forcing its conductor to set the train in motion while forcing the other passengers to leave by threatening to shoot them. As the train heads forward, Payne kills the conductor after handcuffing Annie to a pole, but Jack is able to catch onto it at the last moment.
After learning that Jack is in the train, Payne opens his money case only to discover there is a dye pack in it, which explodes, rendering the money useless. Angered, Payne gets onto the roof of the train and engages in a fight with Jack, hoping to kill him in revenge of his loss. However, Jack manages to decapitate Payne by forcing his head into a passing signal light, while grabbing the trigger away from him.
Though Jack frees Annie from the vest safely, they find the brakes on the train are now broken and have no way to communicate with the police. Even worse, Jack cannot free Annie from the pole, as there are no keys to the handcuffs. Jack realizes their best chance to survive is to derail the train along a curved part of the track, and sets the train into its highest speed. As expected, the train derails through an area under construction, and the car they are in slides along an uncompleted tunnel, flying out and landing on Hollywood Boulevard. Safe and realizing that they have fallen in love with each other, the two share a kiss while onlookers watch.
- Keanu Reeves as Police Officer III Jack Traven
- Dennis Hopper as Howard Payne
- Sandra Bullock as Annie Porter
- Jeff Daniels as Police Officer III / Detective II Harry Temple
- Joe Morton as Lieutenant II "Mac" McMahon
- Richard Lineback as Sergeant II Norwood
- Alan Ruck as Doug Stephens
- Margaret Medina as Police Officer III Robin Barnette
- Carlos Carrasco as Ortiz
- Hawthorne James as Sam
- Beth Grant as Helen
- Glenn Plummer as "Tuneman" (Jaguar Owner) (later named "Maurice" in Speed 2: Cruise Control)
Screenwriter Graham Yost was told by his father, Canadian television host Elwy Yost, about a film called Runaway Train starring Jon Voight, about a train that speeds out of control. The film was based on an idea by Akira Kurosawa. Elwy mistakenly believed that the train's situation was due to a bomb on board. Such a theme had in fact been used in the 1975 Japanese film The Bullet Train. After seeing the Voight film, Graham decided that it would have been better if there had been a bomb on board a bus with the bus being forced to travel at 20 mph to prevent an actual explosion. A friend suggested that this be increased to 50 mph. The film's end was inspired by the end of the 1976 film Silver Streak. The shooting script underwent extensive re-writes by script doctor Joss Whedon. According to Yost: " "Joss Whedon wrote 98.9 percent of the dialogue. We were very much in sync, it’s just that I didn’t write the dialogue as well as he did."
Stephen Baldwin, the first choice for the role of Jack Traven, felt the character (as written in the earlier version of the script) was too much like the John McClane character from Die Hard. Director Jan de Bont then cast Keanu Reeves as Jack Traven after seeing him in Point Break. He felt that the actor was "vulnerable on the screen. He's not threatening to men because he's not that bulky, and he looks great to women". Reeves did not like how the Jack Traven character came across in Graham Yost's original screenplay. He felt that there were "situations set up for one-liners and I felt it was forced — Die Hard mixed with some kind of screwball comedy". Jan de Bont brought in Joss Whedon a week before principal photography started to work on the script. With Reeves' input, Whedon changed Traven from being "a maverick hotshot" to "the polite guy trying not to get anybody killed", and removed the character's glib dialogue and made him more earnest. Reeves had dealt with the LAPD before on Point Break, and learned about their concern for human life, which he incorporated into Traven. One of Whedon's significant contributions was changing the character of Doug Stephens (Alan Ruck) from a lawyer ("a bad guy and he died", according to the writer) to a tourist, "just a nice, totally out-of-his-depth guy". Whedon worked predominantly on the dialogue, but also created a few significant plot points, like the killing of Harry Temple. Sandra Bullock came to read for Speed with Reeves to make sure there was the right chemistry between the two actors. Originally, Bullock's character "Annie" was intended to be a comical sidekick to Jack. Instead, Annie became both Jack's sidekick and later love interest. She recalls that they had to do "all these really physical scenes together, rolling around on the floor and stuff". The director did not want Traven to have long hair and wanted the character "to look strong and in control of himself". To that end, Reeves shaved his head almost completely. The director remembers, "everyone at the studio was scared shitless when they first saw it. There was only like a millimeter. What you see in the movie is actually grown in". Reeves also spent two months at Gold's Gym in Los Angeles to get in shape for the role.
Principal photography began on September 1, 1993 and completed on December 23, 1993 in Los Angeles. De Bont used an 80-foot model of a 50-story elevator shaft for the opening sequence. While Speed was in production, actor and Reeves' close friend River Phoenix died. Immediately after Phoenix died, de Bont changed the shooting schedule to work around Reeves and give him scenes that were easier to do. "It got to him emotionally. He became very quiet, and it took him quite a while to work it out by himself and calm down. It scared the hell out of him", de Bont recalls. Initially, Reeves was nervous about the film's many action sequences but as the shooting progressed he became more involved. He wanted to do the stunt where Traven jumps from a Jaguar onto the bus himself. Jan de Bont did not want him to do it, but Reeves rehearsed it in secret. On the day of the sequence, the actor did the stunt himself and de Bont remembers, "I almost had a big pain." Eleven GM New Look buses and three Grumman 870 buses  were used in the film's production. Two of them were blown up, one was used for the high-speed scenes, one had the front cut off for inside shots, and one was used solely for the "under bus" shots. Another bus was used for the bus jump scene, which was done in one take.
Many of the film's freeway scenes were filmed on California's Interstate 105 and Interstate 110, which was not officially open at the time of filming. While scouting this location, De Bont noticed big sections of road missing and told screenwriter Graham Yost to add the bus jump over the unfinished freeway to the script. The jump was filmed on the fifth-level HOV lane ramp of the massive stack interchange. In the scene where the bus must jump across a gap in an uncompleted elevated freeway-to-freeway ramp while still under construction, a ramp was used to give the bus the necessary lift off so that it could jump the full fifty feet. The bus used in the jump was empty except for the driver, who wore a shock-absorbing harness that suspended him mid-air above the seat, so he could handle the jolt on landing, and avoid spinal injury (as was the case for many stuntmen in previous years that were handling similar stunts). The highway section the bus jumped over was a regular highway, with the gap added in the editing process using computer-generated imagery.
On a commentary track on the region 1 DVD, De Bont reports that the bus jump stunt did not go as planned. To do the jump the bus had everything possible removed to make it lighter. On the first try the stunt driver missed the ramp and crashed the bus, making it unusable. This was not reported to the studio at the time. A second bus was prepared and two days later a second attempt was successful. But, again, things did not go as intended. Advised that the bus would only go about 20 feet, the director placed one of his multiple cameras in a position that was supposed to capture the bus landing. However, the bus traveled much farther airborne than anyone had thought possible. It crashed down on top of the camera and destroyed it. Luckily, another camera placed about 90 feet from the jump ramp recorded the event.
Filming of the final scenes occurred at Mojave Airport, which doubled for Los Angeles International Airport. The shots of the LACMTA Metro Red Line through the construction zone were shot using an 1/8 scale model of the Metro Red Line, except for the jump when it derailed.
Speed was released on June 10, 1994 in 2,138 theaters and debuted at the number one position, grossing $14.5 million on its opening weekend. It went on to gross $121.3 million domestically and $229.2 million internationally for a worldwide total of $350.5 million.
Speed was a critical and a commercial success. On the review website Rotten Tomatoes, 90% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 41 reviews, and an average rating of 7.6/10. Film critic Roger Ebert gave the film four out of four stars and wrote, "Films like Speed belong to the genre I call Bruised Forearm Movies, because you're always grabbing the arm of the person sitting next to you. Done wrong, they seem like tired replays of old chase cliches. Done well, they're fun. Done as well as Speed, they generate a kind of manic exhilaration". In his review for Rolling Stone magazine, Peter Travers wrote, "Action flicks are usually written off as a debased genre, unless, of course, they work. And Speed works like a charm. It's a reminder of how much movie escapism can still stir us when it's dished out with this kind of dazzle". Hal Hinson, in his review for The Washington Post, praised Sandra Bullock's performance: "The only performer to stand out is Sandra Bullock as Annie ... If it weren't for the smart-funny twist she gives to her lines — they're the best in the film — the air on that bus would have been stifling ... she emerges as a slightly softer version of the Linda Hamilton-Sigourney Weaver heroines: capable, independent, but still irresistibly vulnerable". In her review for The New York Times, Janet Maslin wrote, "Mr. Hopper finds nice new ways to convey crazy menace with each new role. Certainly he's the most colorful figure in a film that wastes no time on character development or personality". Entertainment Weekly gave the film an "A" rating and Owen Gleiberman wrote, "It's a pleasure to be in the hands of an action filmmaker who respects the audience. De Bont's craftsmanship is so supple that even the triple ending feels justified, like the cataclysmic final stage of a Sega death match". Time magazine's Richard Schickel wrote, "The movie has two virtues essential to good pop thrillers. First, it plugs uncomplicatedly into lurking anxieties -- in this case the ones we brush aside when we daily surrender ourselves to mass transit in a world where the loonies are everywhere".
Entertainment Weekly magazine's Owen Gleiberman ranked Speed as 1994's eighth best film. The magazine also ranked the film eighth on their "The Best Rock-'em, Sock-'em Movies of the Past 25 Years" list. Speed also ranks 451 on Empire magazine's 2008 list of "The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time".
Home media 
In November 1994, Fox Video released Speed on VHS and LaserDisc formats for the very first time. Rental and video sales did very well and helped the film's domestic gross. The original VHS cassette was only available in standard format at the time and in 1996 Fox Video re-released a VHS version of the film in widescreen allowing the viewer to see the film in a similar format to its theatrical release. In 1998, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment released Speed on DVD for the very first time. The DVD was in a widescreen format but, other than the film's theatrical trailer, the DVD contained no extras aside from the film. In 2002, Fox released a special collector's edition of the film with many extras and a remastered format of the film. Fox re-released this edition several times throughout the years with different covering and finally, in November 2006, Speed was released on a Blu-ray Disc format with over five hours of special features.
Awards and honors 
In 1995, the film was nominated for three Academy Awards for Best Film Editing, Best Sound Editing, and Best Sound Mixing (Gregg Landaker, Steve Maslow, Bob Beemer, David MacMillan), winning the latter two. Also Sandra Bullock won the Saturn Award for Best Actress and was nominated for three MTV Movie Awards, winning two.
American Film Institute recognition:
- 100 Years...100 Thrills: #99
- 100 Years...100 Heroes and Villains: Jack Traven & Annie Porter - Nominated Heroes
A soundtrack album featuring "songs from and inspired by" the film was released on 28 June 1994 with the following tracks
|Speed: Songs From And Inspired By The Motion Picture|
|2.||"A Million Miles Away"||The Plimsouls|
|3.||"Soul Deep"||Gin Blossoms|
|4.||"Let's Go for a Ride"||Cracker|
|5.||"Go Outside and Drive"||Blues Traveler|
|7.||"Rescue Me"||Pat Benatar|
|8.||"Hard Road"||Rod Stewart|
|10.||"Cars ('93 Sprint Remix)"||Gary Numan|
|11.||"Like a Motorway"||Saint Etienne|
In addition to the above release, a separate album featuring 40 minutes of Mark Mancina's score from the film was released on 30 August 1994. It should be noted that the CD track order was not released in the chronological order of the film's events.
Speed: Original Motion Picture Score
|Track Number||Track Name||Chronological Order|
|10||Fight on Train||18|
La-La Land Records released a limited expanded version of Mark Mancina's score on 28 February 2012. The newly remastered release features 69:25 of music spread over 32 tracks (in chronological order). In addition, it includes the song "Speed" by Billy Idol.
In 1997, a sequel, Speed 2: Cruise Control, was released. Sandra Bullock agreed to star again as Annie, for financial backing for another project, but Keanu Reeves declined the offer to return as Jack. As a result, Jason Patric was written into the story as Alex Shaw, Annie's new boyfriend, with her and Jack having broken up due to her worry about Jack's dangerous lifestyle. Willem Dafoe starred as the villain John Geiger, and Glenn Plummer (who played Reeves' carjacking victim) also cameos as a boat driver. The film is considered one of the worst sequels of all time, barely reaching 2% on Rotten Tomatoes. Sandra Bullock herself mocked this film's performance and has admitted to regretting being a part of it.
- "IMDB: Box office/business for 'Speed'". Retrieved 2011-05-08.
- Leong, Anthony. "Speed Movie Review". Retrieved 2011-05-08.
- Empire - Special Collectors' Edition - The Greatest Action Movies Ever (published in 2001)
- Gerosa, Melina (1994-06-10). "Speed Racer". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2009-04-09.
- Kozak, Jim (August/September 2005). "Serenity Now!". In Focus. Retrieved 2009-04-09.
- Svetkey, Benjamin (1994-07-22). "Overdrive". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2009-04-09.
- McCabe, Bob (June 1999). "Speed". Empire. p. 121.
- "1979 Grumman Flxible 870 ADB in "Speed, 1994"". IMCDb.org. Retrieved 2013-04-06.
- Dennis Hopper (host) (1994). The Making of 'Speed' (Documentary). 20th Century Fox.
- "Speed". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2008-12-03.
- "Speed". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2010-03-23.
- Ebert, Roger (1994-06-10). "Speed". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2008-12-03.
- Travers, Peter (1994-06-30). "Speed". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2008-12-03.
- Hinson, Hal (1994-06-10). "Speed". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-12-03.
- Maslin, Janet (1994-06-10). "An Express Bus in a Very Fast Lane". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-12-03.
- Gleiberman, Owen (1994-06-17). "Speed". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2009-04-09.
- Schickel, Richard (1994-06-13). "Brain Dead but Not Stupid". Time. Retrieved 2009-04-09.
- Gleiberman, Owen (1994-12-30). "The Best & Worst 1994/Movie". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2009-04-09.
- "The Action 25: The Best Rock-'em, Sock-'em Movies of the Past 25 Years". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2009-04-09.
- "The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time". Empire. Retrieved 2009-04-09.
- "The 67th Academy Awards (1995) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 2011-10-23.
- "AFI's ''100 Years...100 Thrills''" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-04-06.
- "Speed: Songs From And Inspired By The Motion Picture (Soundtrack)". Retrieved May 4 2011.
- "Speed: Original Motion Picture Score (Soundtrack)". Retrieved May 4 2011.
- "Speed 2 - Cruise Control". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2013-04-06.
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