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Speed is a 1994 American action/thriller film directed by Jan de Bont, and set in Los Angelesmarker. It focuses on an LAPD officer, Police Officer III Jack Traven, who tries to arrest a bomber/extortionist. After the bomber escapes, he sets up a bomb on a city bus which Traven boards and must keep moving above or the bomb will explode. The film stars Keanu Reeves, Dennis Hopper, Sandra Bullock, Joe Morton and Jeff Daniels. In 1995, it won two Academy Awards for Best Sound and Best Sound Effects Editing.


Police Officer III Jack Traven and his partner Police Officer III Harry Temple, a veteran with over ten years on the force, are explosives experts in LAPD SWAT. A disgruntled retired Atlantamarker bomb squad sergeant, Howard Payne, is holding a group of thirteen office workers trapped in an express elevator for ransom. Charges have already taken out the cables, and Payne wants $5 million or he will blow the emergency brakes. Jack and Harry manage to rescue the hostages before Payne sends the elevator plummeting to the basement. They find Payne in a freight elevator. Payne manages to hold Harry hostage, but after a brief standoff, Jack follows Harry's insistent urging to "shoot the hostage" to take him out of the equation. Payne escapes and sets off a small explosion in the parking garage that knocks Jack unconscious and appears to kill Payne. Jack and Harry are then commended for their bravery by the LAPD in an official ceremony. Now with a crippled leg, Harry is promoted to Detective II and given a desk job.

The next morning, as Jack heads to work, a city bus explodes in front of him, killing the driver. Payne calls Jack on a nearby pay phone, revealing he is alive, his disgust with Jack for ruining his elevator hostage scheme, and that he has rigged another bus to explode. Once the bus reaches 50 mph, the bomb will be armed. If it drops below 50, it will explode. In addition, Payne will detonate the bus manually if anyone gets off the bus, or if the ransom is not delivered on time. Jack locates the bus and jumps aboard, but the bomb has already been armed.

When Jack identifies himself as a police officer in an attempt to calm the passengers, one man draws a gun, believing Jack has come to arrest him. He accidentally shoots the driver, Sam (Hawthorne James), as he struggles to escape. Another passenger, Annie Porter, takes the wheel. Annie is left to drive the bus throughout the city while keeping it above the necessary speed and avoiding other cars. Jack is in contact with the officer in charge of his SWAT section, Lieutenant II "Mac" McMahon, who arranges an escort and directs them around the city from the air to try to get them away from traffic. News of the bomb on the bus quickly makes the TV broadcasts and soon there is a long line of police cars and news choppers trailing the bus, which has been routed onto the Interstate 105 freeway which is still under construction. Jack negotiates for the wounded bus driver to be evacuated from the moving bus. However, when Payne witnesses a terrified passenger named Helen trying to get off as well, he detonates a small bomb under the steps. This causes Helen to fall under the bus, where she is crushed beneath the wheels.

The bus comes to a gap in the elevated highway, but by increasing speed the bus launches over the gap. After that, they drive to the Los Angeles International Airportmarker where they can safely maintain their speed by driving in circles on the runway. Jack goes under the bus on a sled to try and defuse the bomb, but when the sled loses control he tries to grab hold of the bus and accidentally ruptures the fuel tank with a screwdriver.

Meanwhile, Detective Harry Temple, Jack's partner, realizes that the as-yet-unidentified bomber is using a device different to that of the elevator, which is strange since terrorists usually stick to the type of bomb that they are familiar with and avoid variety. The man also knows all about the methods the police use to dismantle explosives. This leads Harry to conclude that the bomber is an ex-cop who was unsatisfied with the pension he received after his years of service. Payne is identified and Harry leads a raid on his residence. But Payne is not at home and has in fact rigged the house with a bomb that blows it up with the team inside.

Jack then discovers that Payne is monitoring the bus with a hidden camera. Using a news van, his colleagues are able to find the video feed and record it. The news team loops the footage being transmitted to Payne while the passengers are safely evacuated. Jack rigs the bus to keep going in circles so he and Annie can get off by riding on the bus' floor panel. The bus crashes into a fully fueled cargo plane and is destroyed in a spectacular explosion. Jack begins to fall in love with Annie, but she warns him that relationships started in intense situations tend not to last.

The police plan to catch Payne picking up the ransom money since he is at first unaware of the evacuation and destruction of the bus. However, Payne soon discovers the feed that is being looped and realizes that everyone has gotten off the bus safely. Nevertheless, disguised as a police officer, he kidnaps Annie off of the street, then escapes into the subway where he collects the ransom money that dropped through a cleverly concealed hole beneath the designated trash can. He wires Annie with a bomb. Jack pursues them and follows Payne onto the top of the subway car, after the conductor is shot to death by Payne. Payne enraged to discover his money has been tainted with pursues Jack on top of the subway car. The fight is one sided until Jack seeing an incoming tunnel light lifts Payne up. Payne is killed when the tunnel light hits his head; decapitating him. Jack disarms Annie's bomb but cannot stop the train, as the control panel was damaged by a bullet during the fight. Noticing a sharp curve in the track ahead, Jack, in a counter-intuitive move, decides to accelerate the train to intentionally derail it, rather than have the train crash into the barrier at the end of the line. Despite Annie's pleas for him to get out and save himself, Jack refuses, and stands by her, something that visibly touches Annie. The train successfully derails breaking through a wall where it comes to rest on Hollywood Boulevardmarker. Jack and Annie kiss as shocked civilians watch.




Screenwriter Graham Yost was told by his father, television host Elwy, about a film Runaway Train starring Jon Voight about a train that speeds out of control. The film was based on an idea by Akira Kurosawa. Elwy mistakenly believed that the train's situation was due to a bomb on board. Such a theme had in fact been used in the 1975 Japanese movie The Bullet Train. After seeing the Voight movie, Graham decided that it would have been better if there had been a bomb on board a bus with the bus being forced to travel at 20 mph to prevent an actual explosion. A friend suggested that this be increased to 50 mph.


The first choice for the role of Jack Traven was Stephen Baldwin. Baldwin read the script and felt the character for Jack Traven as written in the earlier script was too much like the John McClane character from Die Hard. Director Jan de Bont then cast Keanu Reeves as Jack Traven after seeing him in Point Break. He felt that the actor was "vulnerable on the screen. He's not threatening to men because he's not that bulky, and he looks great to women". Reeves did not like how the character of Jack Traven came across in Graham Yost's original screenplay. He felt that there were "situations set up for one-liners and I felt it was forced — Die Hard mixed with some kind of screwball comedy". Jan de Bont brought in Joss Whedon a week before principal photography started to work on the script. With Reeves' input, Whedon changed Traven from being "a maverick hotshot" to "the polite guy trying not to get anybody killed", and removed the character's glib dialogue and made him more earnest. Reeves had dealt with the LAPD before on Point Break, and learned about their concern for human life, which he incorporated into Traven. One of Whedon's significant contributions was changing the character of Doug Stephens (Alan Ruck) from a lawyer, "a bad guy and he died", according to the writer, to a tourist, "just a nice, totally out-of-his-depth guy". Whedon worked predominantly on the dialogue, but also created a few significant plot points, like the killing of Harry Temple. Sandra Bullock came to read for Speed with Reeves to make sure there was the right chemistry between the two actors. She recalls that they had to do "all these really physical scenes together, rolling around on the floor and stuff". The director did not want Traven to have long hair and wanted the character "to look strong and in control of himself". To that end, Reeves shaved his head almost completely. The director remembers, "everyone at the studio was scared shitless when they first saw it. There was only like a millimeter. What you see in the movie is actually grown in". Reeves also spent two months at Gold's Gym in Los Angeles to get in shape for the role.

Principal photography

De Bont used an 80-foot model of a 50-story elevator shaft for the opening sequence. While Speed was in production, actor and close friend to Reeves, River Phoenix died. Immediately after Phoenix died, de Bont changed the shooting schedule to work around Reeves and give him scenes that were easier to do. "It got to him emotionally. He became very quiet, and it took him quite a while to work it out by himself and calm down. It scared the hell out of him", de Bont recalls. Initially, Reeves was nervous about the film's many action sequences but as the shooting progressed he became more involved. He wanted to do the stunt where Traven jumps from a Jaguar onto the bus himself. Jan de Bont did not want him to do it, but Reeves rehearsed it in secret. On the day of the sequence, the actor did the stunt himself and de Bont remembers, "I almost had a heart attack".

Eleven GM New Look buses and one Flxible Metro bus were used in the filming of the movie. Two of them were blown up, one was used for the high-speed scenes, one had the front cut off for inside shots, and one was used solely for the "under bus" shots. Another bus was used for the bus jump scene, which was done in one take.

Many of the freeway scenes in the movie were filmed on California's Interstate 105 and Interstate 110, which was not officially open at the time of filming. While scouting this location, De Bont noticed big sections of road missing and told screenwriter Graham Yost to add the bus jump over the unfinished freeway to the script. The jump was filmed on the fifth-level HOV lane ramp of the massive stack interchange. In the scene where the bus must jump across a gap in an uncompleted elevated freeway-to-freeway ramp while still under construction, a ramp was used to give the bus the necessary lift off so that it could jump the full fifty feet. The bus used in the jump was empty except for the driver, who wore a shock-absorbing harness that suspended him mid-air above the seat, so he could handle the jolt on landing, and avoid spinal injury (as was the case for many stuntmen in previous years that were handling similar stunts). The highway section the bus jumped over was a regular highway, with the gap added in the editing process using CGI.

On a commentary track on the region 1 DVD, De Bont reports that the bus jump stunt did not go as planned. To do the jump the bus had everything possible removed to make it lighter. On the first try the stunt driver missed the ramp and crashed the bus making it unusable. This failure was not reported to the studio at the time. A second bus was prepared and two days later a second attempt was successful. But, again, things did not go as intended. Advised that the bus would only go about 20 feet, the director placed one of his multiple cameras in a position that was supposed to capture the bus landing. However, the bus traveled much farther airborne than anyone had thought possible. It crashed down on top of the camera and destroyed it. Luckily, another camera placed about 90 feet from the jump ramp recorded the event.

Filming of the final scenes occurred at Mojave Spaceportmarker, which doubled for Los Angeles International Airportmarker. The shots of the LACMTA Metro Red Line through the construction zone were shot using an 1/8th scale model of the Metro Red Line, except for the jump when it derailed.


Speed was released on June 10, 1994 in 2,138 theaters and debuted at the number one position, grossing $14.5 million on its opening weekend. It went on to gross $121.3 million domestically and $229.2 million internationally for a worldwide total of $350.5 million.

Speed was a critical and a commercial success. Rotten Tomatoes reported that 90% of critics gave the film positive reviews. Film critic Roger Ebert gave the film four out of four stars and wrote, "Films like Speed belong to the genre I call Bruised Forearm Movies, because you're always grabbing the arm of the person sitting next to you. Done wrong, they seem like tired replays of old chase cliches. Done well, they're fun. Done as well as Speed, they generate a kind of manic exhilaration". In his review for Rolling Stone, Peter Travers wrote, "Action flicks are usually written off as a debased genre, unless, of course, they work. And Speed works like a charm. It's a reminder of how much movie escapism can still stir us when it's dished out with this kind of dazzle". Hal Hinson, in his review for the Washington Post, praised Sandra Bullock's performance: "The only performer to stand out is Sandra Bullock as Annie ... If it weren't for the smart-funny twist she gives to her lines — they're the best in the film — the air on that bus would have been stifling ... she emerges as a slightly softer version of the Linda Hamilton-Sigourney Weaver heroines: capable, independent, but still irresistibly vulnerable". In her review for the New York Times, Janet Maslin wrote, "Mr. Hopper finds nice new ways to convey crazy menace with each new role. Certainly he's the most colorful figure in a film that wastes no time on character development or personality". Entertainment Weekly gave the film an "A" rating and Owen Gleiberman wrote, "It's a pleasure to be in the hands of an action filmmaker who respects the audience. De Bont's craftsmanship is so supple that even the triple ending feels justified, like the cataclysmic final stage of a Sega death match". Time magazine's Richard Schickel wrote, "The movie has two virtues essential to good pop thrillers. First, it plugs uncomplicatedly into lurking anxieties -- in this case the ones we brush aside when we daily surrender ourselves to mass transit in a world where the loonies are everywhere".

Entertainment Weekly magazine's Owen Gleiberman ranked Speed as the eighth best film of 1994. The magazine also ranked the film eighth on their "The Best Rock-'em, Sock-'em Movies of the Past 25 Years" list. Speed also ranks 451st on Empire magazine's 2008 list of "The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time".

Home media

In November 1994, Fox Video released Speed on VHS and laserdisc formats for the very first time. Rental and video sales did very well and helped the film's domestic gross. The original VHS was only available in standard format at the time and in 1996 Fox Video re-released a VHS version of the film in widescreen allowing the viewer to see the film in a similar format to its theatrical release. In 1998, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment released Speed on DVD for the very first time. The DVD was in a widescreen format but other than the film's theatrical trailer the DVD contained no extras aside from the film. In 2002, Fox released a special collector's edition of the film with many extras and a remastered format on the film. Fox re-released this edition several times throughout the years with different covering and finally in November 2006 Speed was released on a Blu-Ray format with over five hours of special features.


In 1995, it won two Academy Awards for Best Sound and Best Sound Effects Editing. The film was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Film Editing.


A soundtrack album featuring "songs from and inspired by" the film was released with the following tracks:

Speed: Songs From And Inspired By The Motion Picture

  1. Billy Idol - "Speed"
  2. The Plimsouls - "A Million Miles Away"
  3. Gin Blossoms - "Soul Deep"
  4. Cracker - "Let's Go for a Drive"
  5. Blues Traveler - "Go Outside and Drive"
  6. Ric Ocasek - "Crash"
  7. Pat Benatar - "Rescue Me"
  8. Rod Stewart - "Hard Road"
  9. Carnival Strippers - "Cot"
  10. Gary Numan - "Cars "
  11. Saint Etienne - "Like a Motorway"
  12. Kiss - "Mr. Speed"

In addition to the above release, a separate album featuring 40 minutes of Mark Mancina's score from the film was released.


In 1997, a sequel, Speed 2: Cruise Control, was released. Set on a cruise ship, it features Sandra Bullock returning to reprise her role, Willem Dafoe as the new villain, and Jason Patric as the new protagonist and love interest. It is considered one of the worst sequels of all time, barely reaching 2% on Rotten Tomatoes.


Speed 3, an episode of the Britishmarker sitcom Father Ted, had a bomb being placed on a milk float with the threat of it exploding if it goes under 4 mph.


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