Speed (1994 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Jan de Bont|
|Produced by||Mark Gordon|
|Written by||Graham Yost
Joss Whedon (uncredited)
|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. The film stars Keanu Reeves, Dennis Hopper, Sandra Bullock 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.
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SWAT members Jack Traven and Harry Temple are called to a scene in a Los Angeles skyscraper where an unknown terrorist has trapped several office workers in an elevator car and threatens to blow up the car if he doesn't receive a ransom. Traven and Temple are able to secure the elevator car long enough to rescue the hostages before the bomber discovers them and detonates the brakes. The pair realize the bomber must be in the building and confront him in the basement. The bomber uses Temple as a hostage, but Traven purposely shoots Temple in the leg, forcing the bomber to release him. The bomber flees and detonates an explosion, apparently killing himself.
Some days later on his way to work, Traven witnesses an empty commuter bus explode, killing the driver. The bomber, who is still alive, calls Traven on a nearby payphone, and warns him that another bus has been rigged with explosives that will be armed if the bus exceeds 50 miles per hour and then go off if the bus falls below that speed or if he attempts to offload the passengers. He demands a larger ransom and gives Traven the bus number. Traven races off, explaining the situation to Temple and McMahon, who begins to try to identify the bomber. Traven manages to get onto the bus after it has passed 50 miles per hour. As Traven explains the situation to the driver, one of the passengers draws a gun, fearing that Traven has come to arrest him. In the panic, the passenger shoots the bus driver, forcing passenger Annie Porter to take the wheel. With the help of a passenger, Traven is able to use access ports under the bus to examine the bomb, relaying the details to Temple. Temple is curious about a gold watch used as part of the bomb's timing device, and believes the bomber may be an ex-officer, as such watches are typically given as retirement presents for police officers.
Traven is able to convince the bomber to allow them to offload the wounded driver to get medical attention. At the same time, a frightened woman also attempts to leave the bus, but the bomber detonates a bomb beneath the bus stairs, dropping her under the bus and killing her. Later, they find that a supposedly completed ramp is still under construction, but Traven helps Porter to jump the ramp with the bus safely. Soon after Traven directs them to Los Angeles International Airport, giving them clear tarmac to run on indefinitely and without media being able to fly into the air space. Meanwhile, Temple discovers the identify of the bomber as Howard Payne, a former Atlanta 1987 bomb squad member after an explosion cost him a finger and forced him to retire. Temple and other officers raid the home, but find that the home is rigged with bombs as well, and they are killed.
Traven gets off the bus and prepares to use a cart to roll under the bus and attempt to defuse the bomb, but is unable to do so. When the car hits debris on the tarmac, Traven is forced to abandon it, puncturing the gas tank to keep his hold on the bus. After the passengers help him back inside, they find that the bus is now dangerously low on fuel. Traven realizes that Payne has been seeing the events on the bus via a camera mounted inside, and gets the police force to have the media find the signal, record a loop of footage, and transmit that in order to fool Payne, giving them the opportunity to unload the passengers. Traven stays behind to help Porter steer the bus until the last minute, using an access hatch to escape with her before the bus crashes into an empty cargo plane and explodes.
With Payne still expecting his ransom, the police converge on the ransom delivery point, along with Traven and Porter. Payne realizes that he has been fooled and disguises himself as an officer to kidnap Porter. When the drop is made but no one comes to pick it up, Traven believes that they have been set up, and finds the drop point to lead into the subway system. He follows, finding Payne has secured Porter in a vest loaded with explosives tied to a pressure release detonator. He gets onto a subway train with Porter, with Traven climbing on at the last moment. Payne gives Porter the switch and proceeds to chase Traven to the top of the train. Payne manages to get the upper hand, however Traven forces Payne's head into an oncoming signal light, decapitating him. Traven frees Porter from the explosives, but finds that Payne shot the control panel, preventing the train from stopping. Traven speeds up the train going into a curve, derailing it through a branch currently under construction. The train car skids to a stop on Hollywood Boulevard, with Traven and Porter sharing a kiss.
- Keanu Reeves as Police Officer III Jack Traven
- Dennis Hopper as Howard Payne
- Sandra Bullock as Annie Porter
- Joe Morton as Lieutenant II "Mac" McMahon
- Jeff Daniels as Police Officer III / Detective II Harry Temple
- Alan Ruck as Doug Stephens
- Glenn Plummer as Jaguar Owner (later named "Maurice" in Speed 2: Cruise Control)
- Richard Lineback as Sergeant II Norwood
- Beth Grant as Helen
- Hawthorne James as Sam
- Carlos Carrasco as Ortiz
- David Kriegel as Terry
- Natsuko Ohama as Mrs. Kamino
- Daniel Villarreal as Ray
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 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." 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 received critical acclaim and was a commercial success. 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". 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. 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".
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 soundtrack release, a separate album featuring 40 minutes of Mark Mancina's score from the film was released on 30 August 1994. The CD track order does not follow 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, 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.
- MythBusters (2009 season), which tested the reality of the iconic bus jump in the film
- "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)
- O'Hare, Kate (June 6, 2003). "The 'Bus Guy' triumphs". The Post-Star. Retrieved November 5, 2013.
- 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.
- 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.
- "Speed". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 2010-03-23.
- "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. Flixster. Retrieved 2013-08-04.
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