Speed

I just watched Speed for the 45th time. Maybe it was the 46th, or perhaps the 47th. It’s in the late ’40s for sure.

My wife and I were watching, but she had a podcast going in her AirPods and was only half (maybe only a quarter?) paying attention. We were almost to the end of the movie; the bus jump had happened, they survived the runway at LAX and the passengers deboarded the bus, Sandra Bullock had been taken hostage and handcuffed to the pole in the subway car, Keanu fought Dennis Hopper on top of the subway train who was then quickly decapitated. 

(I’ve never actually written out what happens in this movie, but wow. That’s not even half of it.)

Yet, even though I’ve seen this movie a LOT, I somehow managed to miss the line of dialogue that explains why he speeds up the subway train near the end of the movie and found myself completely confused. My wife, who hadn’t been paying that close attention, pulled out an AirPod, looked at me, and asked “Why did he need to speed up the train?” 

“Uhh…I don’t know.” 

I sat there, watching a movie I had seen more times than I reasonably should have and couldn’t explain why, in fact, he had to speed up the train (I mean, I get it, it’s the title of the movie. SPEED.). But there HAD to be another reason for it. Granted, it was late and I was getting pretty tired, but this is a significant moment in the movie that should be remembered.

We watched the rest of the movie, almost forgetting about the gaping plothole in our minds, until today when I googled ‘Why does Jack speed up the train?’ But get this: I didn’t even finish typing in the search query when IT AUTO POPULATED THE REST OF THE QUESTION. I wasn’t the only one! Plenty of people had this same concern. I found an entire Reddit thread dedicated to this very topic. The most liked response is below. (Usernames have been covered to protect the innocent.)

Truth.

To explain: the action movie logic is that there is a curve in the track and he can speed up the train and make it jump the track, which is safer than hitting the end of the line (it’s deemed imperative to jump the track!). So, Keanu puts his hand on the accelerator and pushes it all the way up; The train successfully jumps the track, plows through a construction zone, then rolls up an incline and through a sign, landing on its side, above ground, in the middle of the road.

While he was correct in his decision to speed up, mostly because that decision doesn’t kill him or Sandra Bullock, I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if he didn’t speed up the train. I guess he probably would have taken the curve and rolled into a barrier of some kind. But he still goes through a construction zone! And the train hits a support beam and tears one of the passenger cars in half!

And because I needed to know, I googled how fast subway trains can go: In New York City, for example, the average speed of a subway train is 17.4 mph, with a top speed of 55 mph. LA Metro trains have an average speed of about 30 mph, with a top speed of 55-65 mph. I also googled ‘What does the end of a subway line look like?’ And it’s either a solid wall or a rail yard.

So assuming the train was going at its average speed before he sped up, I’m not sure which choice made the most sense. Would hitting a barrier at 30 mph be as risky as rolling 65 mph through construction and onto the road above?

Thankfully, Keanu is all but undefeated in action movies.

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