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Fox/1994/115m/WS 2.35

     Speed is divine inspiration from the forces of locomotive ingenuity. Never has a film linked together a string of sequences that succeeded with such a succession of heavy motion scintillation. Given its grand visual scope, Speed would have ground to a halt without the superb visual command of its rookie director, Jan De Bont. In his directing debut,  De Bont makes the transition from director of photography to  director wholly successful at the helm of this roller coaster ride of wild thrills.
     Speed packs three rides into one. It opens with a spectacularly shot elevator hijack hostage situation that serves to introduce the forces for good and evil. It follows with the extended bomb in a bus sequence that serves as the heart of the film and finishes with a walloping underground subway eruption. The set design for the elevator sequence is fabulous, serving brilliantly as the backdrop for the exciting opening credits and the sight of a subway car angrily protruding through the pavement has been delivered with maximum visual aplomb.
     Excitement is the keynote, and the film delivers non-stop action is helpings rendered at a pace to insure that a minimum amount of time is left for audiences to ponder plot credibility. The masterful editing emphasizes all the aspects of danger and is complimented by powerful scoring from composer Mark Mancina. Director of photography, Andrzej Bartkowiak, works in perfect harmony with director De Bont to produce images with a breathless palette of superior visual impact.
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Don't worry, it's not the Magic School Bus©Fox

     The lead performances by Keanu Reeves, Sandra Bullock and Dennis Hopper serve the action well. Reeves’ cool, disinterested screen style molds perfectly into SWAT policeman Jack Traven. He performs all the physical screen duty asked of him with convincing verve and stands up nicely to his romantic banter and loving clinches with Sandra Bullock. Bullock is quite hilarious as Annie, recruited in desperation to drive the speeding bus through any and every obstacle confronting it. Bullock’s facial expressions behind the wheel embellish the action beautifully. Hopper, in the role of bad bomber Howard Payne, adds nothing new to the lexicon of villainous screen portrayals, but he does keep the explosive character of Payne under control when going too far over the crest of evil may have diminished the effectiveness of the film.
     The non-stop motion of Speed is a good test for any imaging medium. There are some soft scenes, probably as a result of the motion, however the action proceeds with such frenetic energy that the disc seems to blaze past any obvious artifacts of video motion. Unfortunately, there is another problem that is obvious and can't be ignored. This is one DVD born in "straight line Hell." Every   straight or diagonal lines is enhanced to the point of break-up. Jagged surfaces are the rule, not the exception. Yet, despite this evidence of sharpness cranking, there are not halos surrounding images presented in high contrast transitions. The explosions look and feel terrific, with both dynamic video and audio presentation. The Dolby Digital 5:1 surround mix is aggressive and directional. Every explosion, blown tire, screeching turn, grinding of metal road dividers, comes to life with thrilling impact on this bang. The DVD package incorrectly lists the aspect ratio as 1.85, but it is presented in all of its 2.35 glory.