It's an incredibly simple premise; a Los Angeles bus is rigged to explode if its speed drops below 50 miles per hour. Cue tensions when obstacles such as road blocks, traffic jams and incomplete bridges threaten the lives of all onboard.
Throw in a hot male lead, a cute and quirky female lead and a reliably malicious and deranged villain intent on arranging a high ransom. Finally, add some kinetic editing and direction and some massive explosions. It's a simple formula, but Speed worked in 1994 and it still works now.
Speed played a kingmaker role in the careers of three figures. A pre- Matrix Keanu Reeves was not a respected actor, with his biggest hit thus far Point Break and Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure not earning him many pundits. 30 year old Sandra Bullock, had a string of performances, but none of any exception, bar her performance in 1993's Demolition Man which earned her a razzie nomination. Dutch director Jan De Bont had some reasonable previous successes with the Tom Clancy's The Hunt For Red October and Lethal Weapon 3, but his work on Speed, particularly keeping in mind the conservative budget of $25 million, propelled him to the big league.
The old adage of the 'original being the best' is no truer than in the case of its ill-advised sequel Speed 2: Cruise Control, a wreck in which Reeves wisely jumped from, but despite its approaching 20th anniversary, Speed has a reality and hardness evocative of Die Hard before it, which is so rarely seen in Hollywood nowadays. It's a shame too, because Speed is as fresh and exciting as it always has been.
Speed is presented in the film's original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, encoded with AVC compression.
Hailing from the initial batch of Blu-ray's from Fox in 2007 and unfortunately utilizing a single layer Blu-ray disc, Speed has held up rather well, thanks to Fox striking a new transfer and using the efficient AVC codec.
This is a very crisp and clear transfer, with a level of sharpness which pulls back a new layer on the film, revealing every pore and imperfection on the face of Keanu Reeves. There's only a very small amount of fine film grain visible, owing to the use of good Kodak film stock.
Having previously been a bit dirtier on the original VHS and DVD releases, the near complete absence of film artifacts is somewhat of a revelation, as is the enhanced colour gamut which shows the film's rich palette of tones.
It would be nice to see the film re-mastered in the future on a BD-50 Dual layered disc, but overall this is a very good effort for a catalogue release.
Speed is presented in DTS HD Master Audio, encoded at 24 bits.
Released at a time when 5.1 mixes were the exception and certainly not the rule, Speed features a surprisingly aggressive audio mix which will please home theatre aficionadas.
Dialogue is crisp and clear, even through the more over-the-top action sequences. The front soundstage is extremely powerful, but the rears come to life during the action sequences and retain a nice ambience throughout.
Subwoofer usage is very high - make no mistake, you will feel the bass. The climactic explosion will rock the foundations of your home theater.
The score by Mark Mancina has always been one of my favourite film scores and it is very nice to hear it mixed into the film losslessly for the first time.
Overall, a really pleasing aural experience.
Unfortunately, Twentieth Century Fox has failed to port over all of the extras that were to be found on the impressive special edition DVD release from 2002, so fans will want to hang on to the second disc from the set to retain everything. Let's take a look at what they did include.
First up are two Audio Commentaries, the first provided by director Jan DeBont, who through his reasonably thick accent delivers many interesting nuggets relevant to the production. Recorded soon after the September 11 terrorist attacks in the US, it takes a rather somber tack and recalls a brief time when it was unfashionable to enjoy the previously innocent genre of action films. The second commentary is much more fun, provided by producer Mark Gordon and writer Graham Yost. It's particularly hilarious when Gordon mimics DeBont patronizing cast and crew.
Next up are ten Deleted Scenes, totaling approximately 16 minutes in length. Most scenes are relatively superfluous, but the Hurricane Hunter snippet is worth a look. Unfortunately these are presented in standard definition only.
Finally, we have the Original Theatrical Trailer and Teaser Trailer, both presented in 1080p.
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