I have already made it clear in these pages how much I love Jan de Bont's Speed (1994), and how, for me, it's one of the greatest summer movies ever made. (Both Forrest Gump and The Lion King also came out that summer, and Speed made them both look like bloated parade floats.) Nevertheless, I'll reiterate why it's so great. First and foremost, there's the simple, brilliant setup, an idea that might even have turned Rod Serling green with envy. It's so brilliant, they wrote it in a line of Dennis Hopper's dialogue: "There's a bomb on a bus. Once the bus goes 50 miles an hour, the bomb is armed. If it drops below 50, it blows up. What do you do?" The imagination reels.
Then there's the matter of the casting. Keanu Reeves turned his usual stoned surfer character into a stripped down masterpiece of Zen deadpan, the calm at the center of the storm. And for the humanity, Sandra Bullock became a star at the wheel, driving the bus as well as the movie with her warmth, allure, humor, hysteria, panic, and relief. If the pace of the bus is the movie's rhythm, and Keanu is its rock-steady beat, then Sandra is the melody. Another way of putting it is that Speed is one of the fastest movies ever made, but it's brilliantly constructed so that the pace is not a constant monotone. It ebbs and flows in an organic way.