By Jonathan Lawrence
CALGARY — With possibly the most apt name for a movie in history, Speed certainly lives up to its title. Every aspect of the film is bent on moving quickly and practically lends itself to tension: the action moves at breakneck pace, the bus races with wild abandon through busy city streets, and the affection between the two characters develops in an incredibly short period. Even Keanu Reeves talks a little faster than he usually does.
Some might argue that the concept of the film is, on paper, eyeroll-inducing. Interestingly enough, it was originally conceived by legendary director Akira Kurosawa. But when put to the screen, it works magnificently. A lone LAPD officer (Keanu Reeves) must thwart a “crazy” (sorry, “eccentric; poor people are crazy”) bomber’s threat of detonating explosives riding the underbelly of a speeding city bus packed full of passengers if it drops below 50 miles per hour.
Even if you haven’t seen the film, you likely know the story. The premise and characters are comic book in nature, but the audience can buy into it because it’s executed so well. High stakes, the moustache-twirling villain (with an unusual perspective on the underprivileged), the inevitable love scene – Speed hits every mark on the action flick must-have list with gusto. Fifth Reel organizer Alonso Melgar adds that Speed “isn’t groundbreaking… (but) is massively entertaining.”
The film won the Oscars for Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing in 1994. This is unsurprising, as every smash, bang, and crash caused my home theatre system to explode, much to the chagrin of the neighbours. It’s a noisy film, but successfully immerses you in its frantic intensity even further. You feel like you’re on that bus and damn if you don’t want to get off and fast. Watching the film at the Plaza Theatre this month, courtesy of Fifth Reel, will certainly be a treat to the ears.
One can’t help but feel nostalgic for the ’80s and ’90s watching Speed. The days of real stunts, practical effects and corny one-liners seem to be a thing of the past; elements that have invariably been part of the action genre’s DNA. Modern film goers should note that then-unknown Joss Whedon penned a majority of the script, so you can thank him for lines such as “there’s enough C4 to put a hole in the world.”
Action films were just simpler back then, and that’s why Speed still holds up today. For example, look at how much the Die Hard series has changed from the original film. If Speed 3 were to be made today, (yes, there was a Speed 2; no, do not watch it) one could fairly assume that the hero would have to simultaneously defuse multiple bombs on a speeding jet through the stratosphere with one arm, and, with the other, fire at rogue, computer-generated mercenaries with a machine gun. Is that a stretch? Maybe. But with many action movies on eight-figure budgets laden to the gills with CGI flopping at the box office recently, people are starting to look back to films like Speed to remember that simpler often is better. Maybe Hollywood can remember that people don’t need to have their senses assaulted to be entertained. If Transformers 5 has a single moment as good as “cans, it’s just cans,” then I will eat my hat.
This will be the first screening of Speed at the Plaza Theatre, and they are planning to create a bus/speed theme to the event. Melgar states that he “cannot be more excited,” and that he “watches the film at least once a month” and is never bored. In addition, one of Calgary’s most popular (and fastest) bands The Suppliers will be opening the event. If you haven’t seen Speed, or haven’t seen it in a long time, this screening will be one thrill ride to get some seats for.
The Fifth Reel screens Speed at the Plaza Theatre on July 17th.AB, Alberta, Plaza Theatre, Speed, The Bus That Couldn't Slow Down, The Fifth Reel