34. Speed

Am feeling weird about America lately. Children of Men messed with my mind. (We gotta get over immigration.)

So: Speed. 1994. What more perfect action plot than Speed? No time for politics or even opinion when – as Evil Dennis Hopper helpfully and delightedly explains – “There’s a bomb on a bus. Once the bus goes 50 miles an hour, the bomb is armed. If it drops below 50, it blows up. What do you do?”

Then he repeats, scarier: “What do you do?

How evil we talkin’? The first scene is him stabbing a guy through the head! And he’s no grand-scheming or mass-manipulating evil mastermind, like the Joker or President-elect Trump. Evil Dennis Hopper does not use fear as a weapon; he uses bombs. He has no politics; he wants money. He laughs, swears, watches football, makes beautiful bombs and is, so far as killing goes, heartless. “Don’t fuck with daddy,” he says before pushing a very bad button.

Our champion in the arena against this glorious wack-job is Young Keanu Reeves. People (my friends) disparage Keanu because his characters in lesser films don’t look real when they’re falling in love, or being sad. Sometimes he’s funny when he’s not supposed to be. Yet when a tough job must be done, few are better. Keanu excels with guns; he can fight; he’s fast and runs and jumps and twirls. He’s great at getting mad, but not depressed. When his partner dies in Speed, there’s no scene with Keanu at the bar fighting back tears, reciting lines about how great the guy was. There’s no time for that. There’s a bomb on a bus and it can’t go below 50. No feelings!

Of course we must return from Speed. It can’t last forever. Sandra Bullock debuts in this movie and is sunny and spectacular. Young Sandra and Young Keanu can’t help canoodling, but she warns him “relationships that start under intense circumstances, they never last.” She’s right. They made a sequel and he’s not it. She’s with Jason Patric. Yuck.

Yuck! When Speed’s over you’re back in the real world, all fucked up and shitty.

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33. Children of Men

Of course illegal immigration is issue No. 1 in the hopeless near-future envisioned by Children of Men. The film begins with news stories about mass roundups and deportations. Sieges. A heartless and heavily armed system of buses and camps backdrops the entire adventure. It’s Trump’s dream.

The year is 2027. No babies have been born for two decades. Despair is set. Chaos reigns. (New York City was possibly nuked.) The movie takes place in a hyper-militarized UK, where “fugees” from decimated countries literally fight the government that wants them out.

The film is a hero’s journey, through the fight, for Theo (Clive Owen), a jaded former activist who agrees to help his ex-wife smuggle the first pregnant woman in 18 years out of the country. It all goes so terribly.

The sumptuous and action-packed long takes are director Alfonso Cuarón’s trademark (see Gravity), and Owen is a gutsy lead, but the backdrop is what matters. Great science fiction has something to say – watching Children of Men is like reading 1984, with its nightmare vision of where surveillance and perpetual war might take us. If wars spread, refugees will need homes. Trump voters, and their ilk, won’t like that.

Hunched and firing a rifle at army soldiers, Luke (Chiwetel Ejiofor!) yells to Theo: “How can it be peaceful, when they try and take your dignity?!”

What? You’re about to get blown up by a tank for your dignity. That could only be a man’s attitude.

Is it offensive to say women are nice? That mothers might be less inclined to shoot someone? The women glow in Children of Men. They braid each other’s hair and snuggle with the precious baby. They are kindness, surrounded by murderous stupidity.

Trump is more mannish – in the worst way, grabbing pussies and acting all tough-guy – than Cheney, Assad, or Putin. He’s exactly the leader Children of Men warned us about in 2006. Stoking fear over immigrants is how he started.

I hope through the soles of my feet and out into the earth that Hillary wins today. Let’s let a woman drive. Maybe the world can still stop getting worse.

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