Updated: Nov 12, 2019
Nominee #20 - Speed (1994 )
"Poor people are crazy Jack. I'm eccentric." With that line we get to know the madman who doesn't want the bus to stop. This movie puts us in the bus for one hell of a pulse pounding ride.
When those opening credits roll up on the screen, it’s like the camera’s climbing, crawling alongside an elevator shaft. It’s one of those movies where even the opening credits feel like part of the movie – you’re already riveted. It seems harmless enough but even as you watch the elevator starts rushing. Just before a minute is up you hear the first notes of that most recognisable of theme soundtracks – rin, tin, tin, tin, tin, tin (notes climbing up, outward)....... rin, tin, tin, tin, tin, tin (notes falling down, sideways). And you’re already ‘OMG’ing’ under your breath. If you thought the racing was going to be just vertical and safe, just wait until it hits the road – it’s going to be horizontal and every which way from there on.
You’re wondering how it garnered an astounding $350 m (imagine that at today’s currency conversion) on a budget of less than $50m, well that’s how! Don’t forget Director Jan de Bont was Director of Photography for Die Hard just a few years before he started directing Speed
At the emergency LAPD SWAT briefing before they storm the high-rise where people have been taken hostage in an elevator, someone asks ‘anything else that’ll keep this elevator from falling?’ and Jack Traven (Keanu Reeves) answers while chewing gum, almost as an afterthought, ‘The basement!’. What you see, what you hear is what you get – when the two buddies race up, the camera races up with them.
‘Pop Quiz, hotshot! Terrorist's got a hostage with enough dynamite to blow a building in half, now what you do?’
Then, from the time Reeves and Harry Temple (Jeff Daniels) land on top of the elevator until the time the demented Howard Payne (Hopper) blows it up, it’s about 4 min. And after all that racing up stairs and corridors, the scene’s just stuck as Hopper blows fist-sized holes in the roof trying to kill both men. Daniels makes one of those holes a little larger and falls right in. Hopper starts the elevator and Reeves realising he’s about to get squashed on the roof, jumps in too. Hopper clicks but the gun doesn’t go off. And before Reeves can shoot, Hopper’s got his trusted dynamite trigger ready and Daniels as hostage ‘Pop Quiz, hotshot! Terrorist's got a hostage with enough dynamite to blow a building in half, now what you do?’ and you’re ready for more, more, more, more. And you get it.
Reeves shoots his shocked partner in the leg but Hopper is unfazed. Before you know it Reeves rushing to the door behind an escaping Hopper is thrown several feet in the air amidst a snorting blast. Boom! And we’re not yet in first gear.