Speed (1994 film)

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Speed
Speed movie poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Jan de Bont
Produced by Mark Gordon
Written by Graham Yost
Joss Whedon (uncredited)
Starring Keanu Reeves
Dennis Hopper
Sandra Bullock
Joe Morton
Jeff Daniels
Music by Mark Mancina
Cinematography Andrzej Bartkowiak
Edited by John Wright
Production
company
Mark Gordon Productions
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release dates
  • June 10, 1994 (1994-06-10)
Running time 116 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $30 million[1][2]
Box office $350,448,145[1]

Speed is a 1994 American action film directed by Jan de Bont in his directorial debut. The film stars Keanu Reeves, Dennis Hopper, Sandra Bullock, Joe Morton and Jeff Daniels. A surprise critical and commercial success, it won two Academy Awards, for Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing at the 67th Academy Awards in 1995.

Plot[edit]

Los Angeles SWAT officers Jack Traven (Keanu Reeves) and Harry Temple (Jeff Daniels) thwart an attempt by an unknown bomber to hold an elevator car full of hostages ransom for a large sum of money. They corner the bomber (Dennis Hopper) in the building's basement, but the bomber grabs Temple. Traven shoots Temple in the leg, forcing the bomber to release him; the bomber turns and runs around a corner, apparently killing himself in an explosion. Traven and Temple are praised by their superior, Lieutenant "Mac" McMahon (Joe Morton), and Temple is assigned desk duty while his leg heals.

The next morning, Traven witnesses a public transit bus and its driver explode nearby; the bomber contacts Traven and explains a similar bomb is planted on a bus, already in morning traffic, which will arm if the bus exceeds 50 miles per hour (80 km/h) and detonate when it drops below 50 miles per hour (80 km/h). The bomber demands an even larger sum of money and warns Traven he will set off the bomb if they attempt to offload the passengers. Traven races through traffic and alerts Temple of the situation, and manages to get on the bus after it has passed 50 mph. Traven secretly tells the driver the situation, but a panicked small-time criminal on the bus, fearing Traven is going to arrest him, fires his gun wildly, wounding the driver. Another passenger Annie Porter (Sandra Bullock) takes the wheel, and Traven is forced to reveal the bomb on the bus to the occupants. Traven examines the bomb under the bus, and Temple uses clues to narrow the bomber as a former police officer

The police are able to clear the route for the bus to a closed-down freeway. McMahon insists they offload the passengers onto a pacing flatbed truck, but Traven warns about the bomber's demands. Traven succeeds with negotiating to offload the wounded driver, but when another passenger attempts to escape, the bomber blows a second explosive under the bus stairs, and she falls and is run over. Traven learns part of the freeway ramp ahead is incomplete, but guides Porter in accelerating the bus to leap the gap safely. Traven directs Porter to nearby LAX to use the open tarmac to continue traveling at speed. Meanwhile, Temple has identified the bomber as Howard Payne, a retired Atlanta bomb squad officer with a local address, and takes a SWAT team there. They discover too late the home is rigged to explode, and Temple and the team are killed.

Traven attempts to use a sledge being pulled under the bus to defuse the bomb, but debris on the tarmac forces him to puncture the bus's fuel tank to keep safe. He is pulled back on the bus by the passengers, and learns from a sarcastic Payne that Temple is dead. In his rage, Traven discovers a hidden camera on the bus which is how Payne is keeping tabs on them. McMahon gets a local news crew to rebroadcast a loop of footage from the camera, giving them time to unload the passengers. Traven stays with Porter to set the bus on its own course then escape via an access panel. The bus collides with an empty 707 cargo plane and explodes.

They return to Pershing Square, the drop point for the ransom. Payne has discovered the deception and posing as a police officer secretly captures Porter. When the drop is made in a waste can, no one shows up to take it and Traven discovers a hole under the can into the Metro system. Traven finds Payne there with Porter in a vest covered with explosives and rigged to a pressure-release detonator. Payne hijacks a Metro train, killing its driver and setting it in motion, but Traven manages to get on at the last minute. The two fight in and on top the train, and Traven is able to force Payne's head into a oncoming signal light, decapitating him. Traven safely removes the vest from Porter, but find they can't stop the train; instead he sets the train at full speed, causing it to derail through a construction site, and comes flying onto Hollywood Boulevard before coming to a stop. Traven and Porter, having fallen in love during the ordeal, kiss passionately as onlookers take pictures.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Part of the film featured the bus making its way onto Interstate 110 through the traffic.

Writing[edit]

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.[3] 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."[4]

Casting[edit]

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".[5] 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."[5] Jan de Bont brought in Joss Whedon a week before principal photography started to work on the script.[6] With Reeves' input, Whedon changed Traven from being "a maverick hotshot" to "the polite guy trying not to get anybody killed,"[6] and removed the character's glib dialogue and made him more earnest.[5] Reeves had dealt with the LAPD before on Point Break, and learned about their concern for human life, which he incorporated into Traven.[5] 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".[6] Whedon worked predominantly on the dialogue, but also created a few significant plot points, like the killing of Harry Temple.[6] 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 comic-relief sidekick to Jack, with Ellen DeGeneres in mind for the part. 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."[7] The director did not want Traven to have long hair and wanted the character "to look strong and in control of himself".[5] 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".[5] Reeves also spent two months at Gold's Gym in Los Angeles to get in shape for the role.[5]

Filming[edit]

Principal photography began on September 7, 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.[8] While Speed was in production, actor and Reeves' close friend River Phoenix died.[5] 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.[5] 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[9] 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.[10]

Eleven GM New Look buses were used to represent the bus in the film.

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.[8] 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.[10]

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.[10]

Reception[edit]

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.[11] The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported a 93% approval rating with an average rating of 7.9/10 based on 54 reviews. The website's consensus reads, "A terrific popcorn thriller, Speed is taut, tense, and energetic, with outstanding performances from Keanu Reeves, Dennis Hopper, and Sandra Bullock."[12]

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".[13] 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".[14] 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".[15] 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".[16] 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".[17] 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".[18] Filmmaker Quentin Tarantino (who was also commissioned to direct the film, but declined) named the film one of the twenty best films he had seen since 1992.

Entertainment Weekly magazine's Owen Gleiberman ranked Speed as 1994's eighth best film.[19] The magazine also ranked the film eighth on their "The Best Rock-'em, Sock-'em Movies of the Past 25 Years" list.[20] Speed also ranks 451 on Empire magazine's 2008 list of "The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time".[21]

Home media[edit]

On November 8, 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 4/3 TV format at the time and in October 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. On November 3, 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[edit]

In 1995, the film was nominated for three Academy Awards for Best Film Editing (John Wright), Best Sound Editing (Stephen Hunter Flick), and Best Sound Mixing (Gregg Landaker, Steve Maslow, Bob Beemer, David MacMillan), winning the latter two.[22] Wright won the BAFTA Award for Best Editing. Flick and his co-editors Landaker, Maslow, Beemer, and MacMillan won the BAFTA Award for Best Sound .

Sandra Bullock won the Saturn Award for Best Actress and was nominated for three MTV Movie Awards, winning two.

American Film Institute recognition:

Music[edit]

Soundtrack[edit]

A soundtrack album featuring "songs from and inspired by" the film was released on 28 June 1994 with the following tracks[24] The soundtrack was commercially successful in Japan, being certified gold by the RIAJ in 2002.[25]

Speed: Songs From And Inspired By The Motion Picture
No. Title Artist Length
1. "Speed"   Billy Idol  
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  
6. "Crash"   Ric Ocasek  
7. "Rescue Me"   Pat Benatar  
8. "Hard Road"   Rod Stewart  
9. "Cot"   Carnival Strippers  
10. "Cars ('93 Sprint Remix)"   Gary Numan  
11. "Like a Motorway"   Saint Etienne  
12. "Mr. Speed"   Kiss  

Not on the album is actor Dennis Hopper singing a line from Tom Lehrer's satirical 1953 song, "Be Prepared", as he descends into the subway.[26]

Score[edit]

In addition to the soundtrack release, a separate album featuring 40 minutes of Mark Mancina's score from the film was released on 30 August 1994.[27] The CD track order does not follow the chronological order of the film's events.

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.

Sequel[edit]

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, scoring only 3% (based on 64 reviews) on Rotten Tomatoes. Sandra Bullock herself mocked this film's performance and has admitted to regretting being a part of it.[28]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "IMDB: Box office/business for 'Speed'". Retrieved 2011-05-08. 
  2. ^ Leong, Anthony. "Speed Movie Review". Retrieved 2011-05-08. 
  3. ^ Empire - Special Collectors' Edition - The Greatest Action Movies Ever (published in 2001)
  4. ^ O'Hare, Kate (June 6, 2003). "The 'Bus Guy' triumphs". The Post-Star. Retrieved November 5, 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i Gerosa, Melina (1994-06-10). "Speed Racer". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2009-04-09. 
  6. ^ a b c d Kozak, Jim (August–September 2005). "Serenity Now!". In Focus. Retrieved 2009-04-09. 
  7. ^ Svetkey, Benjamin (1994-07-22). "Overdrive". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2009-04-09. 
  8. ^ a b McCabe, Bob (June 1999). "Speed". Empire. p. 121. 
  9. ^ "1979 Grumman Flxible 870 ADB in "Speed, 1994"". IMCDb.org. Retrieved 2013-04-06. 
  10. ^ a b c Dennis Hopper (host) (1994). The Making of 'Speed' (Documentary). 20th Century Fox. 
  11. ^ "Speed". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2008-12-03. 
  12. ^ "Speed (1994)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 29 December 2013. 
  13. ^ Ebert, Roger (1994-06-10). "Speed". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2008-12-03. 
  14. ^ Travers, Peter (1994-06-30). "Speed". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2008-12-03. 
  15. ^ Hinson, Hal (1994-06-10). "Speed". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-12-03. 
  16. ^ Maslin, Janet (1994-06-10). "An Express Bus in a Very Fast Lane". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-12-03. 
  17. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (1994-06-17). "Speed". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2009-04-09. 
  18. ^ Schickel, Richard (1994-06-13). "Brain Dead but Not Stupid". Time. Retrieved 2009-04-09. 
  19. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (1994-12-30). "The Best & Worst 1994/Movie". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2009-04-09. 
  20. ^ "The Action 25: The Best Rock-'em, Sock-'em Movies of the Past 25 Years". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2009-04-09. 
  21. ^ "The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time". Empire. Retrieved 2009-04-09. 
  22. ^ "The 67th Academy Awards (1995) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 2011-10-23. 
  23. ^ "AFI's ''100 Years...100 Thrills''" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-04-06. 
  24. ^ "Speed: Songs From And Inspired By The Motion Picture (Soundtrack)". Retrieved May 4, 2011. 
  25. ^ "GOLD ALBUM 他認定作品 2002年2月度" [Gold Albums, and other certified works. February 2002 Edition] (PDF). The Record (Bulletin) (in Japanese) (Chūō, Tokyo: Recording Industry Association of Japan) 509: 13. April 10, 2002. Archived from the original on January 17, 2014. Retrieved January 22, 2014. 
  26. ^ "'Be prepared'; that's the Boy Scouts' marching song."
  27. ^ "Speed: Original Motion Picture Score (Soundtrack)". Retrieved May 4, 2011. 
  28. ^ "Speed 2 - Cruise Control". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 2013-08-04. 

External links[edit]