Directed by Jan de Bont and starring some of the biggest names in showbiz (Keanu Reeves, Sandra Bullock, Jeff Daniels, Dennis Hopper), Speed remains one of the most exciting action thrillers of all time. From the very first second we get the punching score by Mark Macina, bold ALL CAPS opening credits and 3m17s of lift shaft impending doom.
A terrorist has planted a bomb on a bus, which is armed when the bus goes above 50mph and will then explode if it goes below 50mph. Unfortunately in LA that is highly likely, but with the driving skills of Sandra Bullock and the determination of cop Keanu Reeves, the bomber meets his match.
With stunts, quips, and off the chart tension there are so many iconic moments in this film to choose from. But here are my top 5 (which includes spoilers).
"It was cans!"
The bomber has now increased his demands to $3.7m for some reason ($6.4m in 2019 dollars) and Annie (Bullock) is driving the rigged bus. Careening through the streets of LA at 50mph comes with many hazards. Including people pushing baby carriages across streets against a red light and without looking.
The bus comes hurtling along and smashes this woman’s carriage right out of her hands. It goes flying through the air in slow motion, wheels bent and mangled. Annie screams, thinking she’s killed a baby. We think she’s killed a baby too – and for a moment it’s quite shocking.
But never fear the “baby” was just a bunch of cans. Phew.
One of the most iconic images of the film. LA’s infrastructure system is woefully inadequate and there’s a 50 foot hole in the road. Annie and Jack have little choice but to try to jump the bus over the gap.
They pick up speed. We’re doubtful this is going to work. They floor it and the passengers cling on for dear life as we cling on to our armchairs.
Miraculously, the front end of the bus manages to lift up into the air. But the back end drops like a stone and for a split second it looks like it’s about to plummet.
This is Hollywood though and, of course, the bus flies gracefully across the entire gap, whooshing in the wind. With the laws of physics strewn in its wake, the bus lands back wheels first, safely on the other side. Nice driving Annie!
To film this, a stunt driver did jump a bus, suspended in a harness to avoid shattering his spine on landing. It wasn’t over a 50 foot gap in the road though thankfully.
Under the moving bus
Jack is both fearless and resourceful and decides to try to disarm the bomb underneath the bus by himself, while it is still travelling at over 50mph along a runway.
He climbs on a little trolley and is winched under the bus by another vehicle, which drags him along. Although he does make some headway, there are bits of tyre on the tarmac dislodging him from his trolley and into near pulverisation.
This scene is made all the more terrifying from the extremely low angle point of view. You can see the tarmac whizzing inches away from Jack’s head, and he’s dwarfed by the enormous bus wheels threatening to squash him any second. Reeves did a lot of his own stunts for this film, and this scene is one of them, albeit not actually travelling at 50mph.
The subway coda
With all passengers safely offloaded, the bus blown to smithereens, and Jack and Annie lying in dirt gazing into each other’s eyes, the film finds a natural conclusion.
But wait, there’s more!
The bomber still wants his money, and there’s ransom drop to be made. So we move to another mode of transport – the subway.
Annie is kidnapped, attached to a bomb and handcuffed into a subway car with a dead driver. Like the freeway, the track isn’t finished. But Jack still manages to launch the subway train off the track with enough momentum to carry it literally hundreds of feet underground, up a steep incline and up into the street by Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.
With the city in ruins and millions upon millions of dollars’ worth of damage in their wake, we end on one of the best lines in the film from bus-wrangling, death-facing, sex-positive Annie.
Jack: “I’ve heard that relationships based on intense experiences never work.”
Annie: “We’ll have to base it on sex then.”
Hi, I'm Caz. I live in Edinburgh and I watch a lot of films. My reviews focus mainly on women in film - female directors or how women are represented on screen.