★★ | Ben Lane
Need for Speed arrives after the consummation of star Aaron Paul’s career making and inevitably defining Breaking Bad. I guess we finally know where Jesse Pinkman was driving to in that finale. Hopefully his career improves, because this guy can act. We know this from Breaking Bad. Not only could he be the drug dealing meth-head his character required, but he nailed the deeply emotional scenes as well. I say hopefully his career improves because apart from some really exhilarating racing scenes, Need for Speed is pretty dull.
One could expect as much coming from a video game to movie adaptation though, nowadays. I mean really, did anyone ever say, “I can’t wait to see a Need for Speed movie!” No. We didn’t need it. We have The Fast and the Furious. Maybe too many people were complaining because the latest F&F films are centered more on story and action than racing. Screw them. They’re getting better because of that. Need for Speed is a prime example of a film that centers on its racing scenes, has a mediocre story, and suffers in the end. Does it prove to be an enjoyable watch? Absolutely! Even during it’s 130 minute run time, I can’t remember being bored once. However, after the credits roll, it becomes more and more forgettable.
Take for instance the script by George Gatins, which consists of a story that has no real interest for its characters, but instead serves as a paper thin reason for its characters to get behind the wheel and have some sort of motivation to go really fast (which is why the film is titled Need for Speed.) Okay, I guess that’s a little creative. The story goes on for two hours, and it never gets interesting, although I will admit I teared up a bit in a scene that involves a fiery car crash, not because I felt for the characters, but because it brought back memories of Paul Walker’s untimely passing. R.I.P. Paul.
Need For Speed isn’t without its pluses though. Aaron Paul shows his skill as an actor here, almost getting completely into his character, thin as it may be, and erasing any trace of Jesse Pinkman. Breaking Bad is in my opinion the greatest television drama in history, and for a fan like me to say that about Aaron Paul is saying something. He does a terrific job, and I can’t wait to see what he does in the future. Also on the plus side is the camera work, which creates what is some of the best racing scenes I’ve ever seen in a movie, ranking even with Drive. Just the racing scenes, that is. Need for Speed is nowhere near as good as Drive. The way the camera moves and captures wide shots of these races is simply astonishing, alongside the use of practical effects instead of CGI. It adds to the effect to know that some of these stunts are really happening and are not a result of good computer skills.
FINAL VERDICT: Need for Speed is far from awful cinema. It has just enough car chases, street races, and high octane action scenes (all filmed with terrific skill) to satisfy for two hours. The story, however, is lackluster. This is a video game adaptation that is better than some, but it still begs the question, why do all video games need to be movies? Still, it’s a fairly enjoyable watch, if forgettable.