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NEED FOR SPEED (review)

Review by Caitlyn Thompson
Produced by John Gatins, Patrick O’Brien, Mark Sourian
Screenplay by George Gatins
Story by George Gatins, John Gatins
Based on Need for Speed by Electronic Arts
Directed by Scott Waugh
Starring Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper, 
Kid Cudi, Imogen Poots, 
Ramón Rodríguez, Michael Keaton

The classic video game, Need for Speed, had no real narrative, so director Scott Waugh created a very simple story of good, evil, and speeding cars.

Need for Speed promotes a nostalgic atmosphere by exhibiting classic muscles cars and a band of mechanics whose honor and camaraderie play tribute to older car classics such as Bullitt, Vanishing Point, and Thelma and Louise.

Several iconic settings are featured as praise to those classics as well.

Of course the production is also pimped out with futuristic exotic vehicles and the ultimate classic prize car, a Ford Mustang as envisioned by Carroll Shelby before his death. Need for Speed is an exciting, easy-to-watch movie. It’s solid despite the cheesy dialogue and foreseeable plotline.

And Michael Keaton is in it.

So… a hundred extra points for that. Obviously. 

Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul) is a quiet blue collar hero street racing late at night to keep his family’s car garage from closing. When his rival, Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper), barges in and proposes a race for big bucks that would save his business, Tobey reluctantly agrees. Of course the race ends tragically and Tobey winds up in jail for two years.

The movie unfolds as a cross country road trip heading towards the most elite and dangerous race: the De Leon. If he wins, Tobey gets his revenge and the money to reopen his garage.

The film is stacked with goofy sidekicks, a hot blonde, an array of odd villains, and of course the most awesome car stunts I’ve ever seen.

The real stars of Need for Speed are Aaron Paul, all the precision/stunt drivers, and the cars.

As many action films currently rely heavily on CGI for explosions and outrageous stunts, Need for Speed is very visually impressive as no amount of CGI was used in making the production. This authenticity makes the movie far more exciting because the danger is palpable. Real drivers, real explosions. Even the actors spent a decent amount of time behind the wheel with no track guiding the vehicle separately.

The camera work is complex and admirable. The intricate perspectives of the roads, car interiors, and extreme close ups of the actors’ eyes are awesome. You really feel like you’re in the car, or about to be run over by it. Contrasting the close-up intensity are the extreme long shots of the country’s landscapes and cityscapes which are peaceful and stunning.

Aaron Paul is fantastic as a brooding, tender soul who speaks minimally with a soft voice. Maybe I’m biased because I love him as Jesse Pinkman so much, but he is great as a not-so-tortured and abused character. Tobey is confident driven, has a handle on his objectives and doesn’t have a knack for getting beaten to a pulp (like Mr. Pinkman did).

Imogen Poots plays sassy Julia Maddon, a high-end car broker who accompanies Tobey on his trip across the country making sure her client’s car (the Mustang) makes it to California unscathed. Is anything sexier than a British hottie spouting fancy car-lingo?

Julia and Tobey’s dialogue is simple and their chemistry is subtle and sexy. The camera always stays extremely close emphasizing the fear and intensity of the car chases. You’ll be white knuckling your arm rests as they cruise around tight corners and play slalom with cars on the opposite side of a highway. 

Did I mention that they also have very beautiful blue eyes?

Paul is also surrounded by a hilarious bunch of sidekicks that act as his eyes and ears while he drives across the country. Joe Peck (Ramon Rodriguez) and Finn (Rami Malek) follow and defend Tobey against traffic, police, and bounty hunters in a modified monster truck. Benny (Scott Mescudi) guides from the sky in various aircrafts, always spewing snarky comments and flaunting his flying skills. These guys have a great rapport and their well-timed humor is delivered genuinely. They clearly had a wonderful time making the movie.

While the motive of Need for Speed revolves around Tobey’s need for revenge against Dino, the movie is propelled by the high-status invitation to the De Leon by DJ Monarch, played by Michael Keaton. And Oh My God. He’s awesome.

Monarch never interacts with any character face-to-face, but instead dominates a radio station, always watching and commenting on the insane race to his De Leon. Keaton dons tinted sunglasses and a soul patch, rasping with his amazing Beetlejuice voice that only adds to the nostalgic essence of the story.

It doesn’t bother me that Need for Speed is predictable and cliché-ridden. The good guys wear white. The bad guys wear black turtlenecks. The movie is a fun and warm welcome back to the iconic car-chase-adventure genre.

Enjoy the incredible stunts and gorgeous scenery across the country, as well as the eye candy – no not just Aaron Paul, the cars are the true beauties.

Vroom Vroom. 

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