Yesterday, this column reviewed "Point Break," an action film released in the early 1990s. At first glance, it has much in common with "Speed," which came out in 1994. In both films, Southern California landscapes are components of the plot and, of course, Keanu Reeves stars as a member of the law enforcement community. But "Speed" is a very different movie.
In its introduction, the audience meets Jack Traven (played by Reeves), an earnest cop who, along with his partner, Harry Temple (played by Jeff Daniels), successfully saves a group of people from an elevator rigged with a bomb by Howard Payne (played by Dennis Hopper). This sequence introduces us to their skills, bravery, and ability to work as a team. In "Point Break," FBI agent Utah/Reeves develops an affinity for the movie's villains, but in "Speed," Jack's focus is solely on his law enforcement colleagues and the victims. His prowess and conviction are truly tested when Howard puts a bomb on a public city bus that serves one of Los Angeles's main thoroughfares. If the bus drops below 50 mph, it will explode, killing all the passengers, as well as other people nearby. Jack manages to get on the moving bus, but the experienced driver is accidently shot. Because of this, Annie (played by Sandra Bullock), a plucky young woman who lost her driver's license for speeding, has to drive the clunky, sabotaged bus.
"Speed" lives up to its title. The bus has to drive very fast in places besides the freeway. This creates many memorable scenes, such as when the bus hits a baby carriage full of cans.
The cast is strong. Keanu Reeves makes a great hero. Dennis Hopper makes a great villain. Sandra Bullock is excellent as Annie, who faces a lot of danger while driving the bus. Another strong performance is by Jeff Daniels, playing Jack's partner who works with him over the phone while at the office. All of the dialogue is sharp and authentic.
"Speed" is a lot of fun to watch. It is almost like being on a rollercoaster.