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Film Review: Speed

Updated on January 5, 2017
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Jason Wheeler is the Senior Writer and Editor at Film Frenzy. He reviews films from across the cinematic landscape.


In 1994, Jan de Bont released Speed. Starring Keanu Reeves, Dennis Hopper, Sandra Bullock, Joe Morton, Jeff Daniels, Alan Ruck, Glenn Plummer, Richard Lineback, Beth Grant, Hawthorne James, Richard Schiff, Carlos Carrasco, David Kriegel, Natsuko Ohama, Daniel Villarreal, and Patrick Fischler, the film grossed $350.4 million at the box office.


After police officer Jack Traven foils a Howard Payne’s scheme to hold an elevator’s passengers for ransom or else he’ll blow up the emergency brakes, the mad bomber returns. This time, there’s a bus with a bomb attached which will explode if it falls under 50 miles per hour or if he doesn’t get his original ransom.


A thoroughly intense film, Speed might not have a far-reaching and intricate plot, but it manages to be incredibly entertaining for the basic plot it does employ. The film presents a story of a bomber deciding to try again following his first plan being derailed by a cop. He puts a bomb on the underside of a bus, calls said cop to inform him of the plan and the officer races to ensure the passengers on the bus stay alive. The intensity comes in the multiple moments where it looks as if the vehicle will slow down enough for the device to go off. The only flaw the film has in its story comes in the ending’s subway sequence. The scene seems to exist only as a way to make it so Traven and Payne can have a showdown. The two did need one, since Payne couldn’t exactly get on the bus itself, but having the way the two characters find themselves on the subway feels forced.

Nevertheless, Payne is a good villain for the film, holding the persona of a homicidal maniac. Feeling cheated by the severance package his former police department gave him when he lost a finger, he wants the money he believes the department owes him. As such, he goes to numerous lengths to get it, including rigging an elevator filled with people to drop unless he gets the $3 million, resorting to an attempt to kill the hostages when Traven and Harry work to save them, moving to a bus full of people upon the failure of the original ploy. Furthermore, Payne has smaller bombs he’s able to detonate should the need arise to not fully destroy the bus and reveals he’s always one step ahead of Traven with both the trap he springs to kill the SWAT members circling his house as well as the camera he installed prior so he can see everything Traven tries to accomplish. Additionally, as a former police officer, Payne is smart enough to know he won’t get the ransom money with just Traven and Harry in the wake of his first scheme failing and he knows the foolishness of walking up to the drop point to get the money and makes use of a hole beneath the trash can so he can pick it up unnoticed, though he doesn’t consider the possibility of a dye pack to ruin the money.

Complementing Payne as a villain is Traven as a cop alongside the Los Angeles Police Department. The film demonstrates Traven’s dedication to protecting civilians through his innovation during the first ploy with the elevator and in how dedicated he is to chasing and boarding the bus in order to ensure the bomb doesn’t go off. As for the other police officers, instead of the film playing up their uselessness, it depicts them as on top of the situation, providing an escort, mapping a survivable route from a helicopter and blocking off side streets.

5 stars for Speed

the postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent WNI's positions, strategies or opinions.

Awards won

Academy Awards

  • Best Sound
  • Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing

BAFTA Awards

  • Best Editing
  • Best Sound

Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films Saturn Awards

  • Best Actress (Sandra Bullock)

Awards Circuit Community Awards

  • Best Stunt Ensemble
  • Second Place - Best Achievement in Sound
  • Honorable Mention - The Next Ten Best Picture Contenders

Blockbuster Entertainment Awards

  • Favorite Actress - Action/Adventure (Sandra Bullock)

BMI Film & TV Awards

  • BMI Film Music Award

Golden Screen Awards

  • Golden Screen

Jupiter Awards

  • Best International Actress (Sandra Bullock)

Motion Picture Sound Editors Golden Reel Awards

  • Best Sound Editing - Sound Effects & Foley, Domestic Feature Film

MTV Movie Awards

  • Best Female Performance (Sandra Bullock)
  • Most Desirable Female (Sandra Bullock)
  • Best On-Screen Duo (Sandra Bullock/Keanu Reeves)
  • Best Villain (Dennis Hopper)
  • Best Action Sequence (For the bus escape/airplane explosion)

Nikkan Sports Film Awards

  • Best Foreign Film

Nominated for

Academy Awards

  • Best Film Editing

BAFTA Awards

  • Best Special Effects

Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films Saturn Awards

  • Best Action/Adventure/Thriller Film
  • Best Director

American Cinema Editors Eddie Awards

  • Best Edited Feature Film

Awards Circuit Community Awards

  • Best Film Editing
  • Best Visual Effects

Awards of the Japanese Academy

  • Best Foreign Film

Chicago Film Critics Association Awards

  • Most Promising Actress (Sandra Bullock)

Cinema Audio Society Awards

  • Outstanding Achievement in Sound Mixing for Feature Films

Edgar Allan Poe Awards

  • Best Motion Picture

Kids' Choice Blimp Awards

  • Favorite movie
  • Favorite Movie Actor (Keanu Reeves)
  • Favorite Movie Actress (Sandra Bullock)

MTV Movie Awards

  • Best Movie
  • Best Male Performance (Keanu Reeves)
  • Most Desirable Male (Keanu Reeves)
  • Best Kiss (Sandra Bullock/Keanu Reeves)


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