Date night with my husband included a fabulous preview of Need For Speed. I came in with no expectations, except that the association with Dreamworks meant it would be visually interesting. However, I had a vague sense of knowing something about it. Then my husband mentioned the EA video game and my recollection was jogged. I have played the game, albeit I was more effective as a spectator cheering on the better driver. With that in mind, I ﬁgured it would be reasonable to expect some well-planned chase scenes including police and rivals. I was not wrong, but my expectations were exceeded.
The movie begins with an introduction to Toby Marshall by a ﬁgure in the movie eventually important as the lynchpin to the epic race ﬁnale. We see this quirky character as an online personality who knows a tremendous amount about racing. Our hero, Toby gets praised and insulted by the man nearly in the same breath. A lot of information is thrown at us at the same time as Tobyʼs rival and successful Indy driver, Dino, is also mentioned.
We learn of Tobyʼs ﬁnancial difﬁculties and the opportunity for quick cash by winning a local race. Toby deals with an apparent ex-sweetheart, Anita, who appears with rival Dino. To add tension, Anitaʼs adorable younger brother is a slightly smart-mouthed cohort of Tobyʼs. I wanted both to squeeze him and smack upside the head. His character was well played.
Toby establishes his abilities, and Dino subsequently offers him a deal to ﬁnish a dream mustang which Toby cannot refuse due to the state of his ﬁnances. Success and hubris escalate the rivalry to tragic proportions, and after some stunning graphics with the ensuing race, Toby has more than enough reason to need closure with Dino.
Some of the most enjoyable parts of the movie, aside from the adrenaline tripping, were the supporting characters.
Dreamworks delivers engaging side characters, and I found myself laughing out loud several times at various antics as well as jumping in my seat, which I generally do not do in theaters. I was delightfully surprised.
Once Toby is able to re-engage his driving skills, we enjoy the race to cross the country and join the infamous Deleon invite-only competition, all while avoiding authorities and a variety of enemies on the hunt for our hero. Our dislike for Dino continues to grow with his distasteful choices, and as the story comes to its head, we are drawn into our heroʼs struggle with the need for redemption and desire for revenge. I enjoyed this movie tremendously.
That being said, the story is loosely based on the Need For Speed video game by Electronic Arts, and although it may have been lacking in a certain depth–well, hello. This is a racing movie, not some epic social commentary. I was not expecting the depth it had.
I found the online personality played by Michael Keaton, whose monologue is interspersed throughout the movie to offer explanation and color, to be quirky and occasionally too familiar with the supposed thought processes of Toby and his companions. Still, I took it in stride since we have to get our information from somewhere. The mysterious former driver-turned, well, Iʼm still not quite certain what he is, per se, outside of some unknown sponsor for the race; but he kept everyone in the loop on the building tension and difﬁculties Toby is facing and later on the positions of the drivers in the Deleon race. Keatonʼs character pulls everything together like the baritone in a singing group–he may seem unimportant, but if he went missing, the whole harmonic blend would fall apart.
The tech involved in all the races is fun. It felt like a video game come to real life, which I imagine is the whole point of that.
Without the eye in the sky, screens in the vehicles, and a truck to refuel along the route, stuff would simply move too slowly, and we would miss out on all the banter between good friends who enjoy razzing each other while they offer their support.
As a mom, I would say this deﬁnitely is a PG-13 movie. There are three references to the scrotum, a prolonged scene in which a character runs around minus clothing, and several other moments of profanity, along with a deﬁnite fatality and several other crashes that to my laymanʼs eye appeared to be deadly. Sensitive souls be warned. The innuendo presented was more subtle and palatable to my preference as a mom than other car movies of recent history.
My son is a gear head, and I recalled a conversation we had while he was playing some racing game in which I asked him about American cars and their European counterparts. His opinion was that the foreign cars were faster. This led me to wonder how they would address this apparent disparity. The method chosen satisﬁed another unrelated but important question, and it was done well.
The best aspect of the movie was the ﬁrst-person viewpoint from the driverʼs seat.
Critical moments were enhanced with excellent sound. Engines were easily distinguishable from each other, and the low-end bass rumbling through the theater in surround sound made me feel like I was in the car. Add the 3-D effects and the sum was the distinct sense of being part of the movie. For me, it is worth the extra cost for the 3-D experience, and I will be recommending to my gear head son that he go with that option.
Need For Speed was a fun, adrenalin ﬁlled-movie. Get your popcorn or piece of gum and be ready to enjoy some great action and visual effects as you cheer for the good guy.
[quote]DreamWorks Pictures’ “Need for Speed” marks an exciting return to the great car culture films of the 1960s and ’70s, when the authenticity of the world brought a new level of intensity to the action on-screen. Tapping into what makes the American myth of the open road so appealing, the story chronicles a near-impossible cross-country journey for our heroes — one that begins as a mission for revenge, but proves to be one of redemption. Based on the most successful racing video game franchise ever with over 140 million copies sold, “Need for Speed” captures the freedom and excitement of the game in a real-world setting, while bringing to life the passion for the road that has made our love of cars so timeless.[/quote]
Need for Speed stars Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper, Scott Mescudi, and Imogen Poots.
Opens in theatres March 14, 2014
Photography by DreamWorks Pictures. Used with permission.