One of the most sophisticated street racing teams you’ve ever seen is at the heart of the latest cross-country high stakes trek in the new DreamWorks film Need For Speed, opening nationwide on March 14.Vividly recalling the 1971 cult classic Vanishing Point, this high speed cross country road movie nicely balances high tech against a clever incorporation of low tech, and more than a few references to that revered motion picture.
In this case, “Tobey Marshal”, played by Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul, has to make it from New York to San Francisco in 48 hours to compete in the greatest street race of them all, the ‘De Leon”. Driven by a desire to extract justice for the untimely death of one of his closest friends, Marshal undertakes one of the most exciting high speed cross country drives put to film since, well, Vanishing Point.
Based on the Electronic Arts video game, The Need For Speed, the most successful racing video game series in the world, Need For Speed the movie accurately captures the action and intensity of the game, while simultaneously functioning as a well-crafted motion picture. When the video game company made the decision to produce a film based on the game, it wanted to make sure whatever was done lived up to the game.
Need For Speed producer, Patrick O’Brien (vice president of EA Entertainment at Electronic Arts) says; “We went in knowing the kind of film we wanted to make and looking for experts in the industry to help us make it even better. The brand is important to us, as are its fans, so we knew we had to do it right—and with the right partners—or not do it at all.”
Oscar-nominated screenwriter John and his brother George Gatins penned the screenplay. They also own a classic car restoration shop in Van Nuys, California. Rather than focusing solely on the action of the game, they developed a character driven script, which relied upon a backdrop of the type of street racing portrayed in the game. John Gatins says, “What was great about the writing process is that the various iterations of the video game don’t provide a lot of narrative. This created an open slate for George and me to infuse our characters into this world.”
One of the most striking aspects of the film is the driving footage. Yes, there are moments of “no way the car woulda survived that” but for the most part, the action is realistic, well photographed, and very compelling. According to the people behind the film, all of the driving sequences are real; there are no digital effects. And, in fact, Need For Speed director Scott Waugh has made a name for himself because of the realism he always insists upon in his films.
Waugh believes shooting movies without practical stunts is becoming a lost art form, being replaced with the effects of computer technology. He explains, “Capturing the action sequences in the camera works on a couple of levels. First, there’s an innate trigger in humans when we know something is not real, no matter how good it may look. And on a visceral level you can tell when an actor is in a real environment.”
“We wanted to honor Scott’s vision with a story that felt real and had events in the movie that could actually happen,” says Gatins. “You won’t be sitting in the theater saying, ‘A car can’t do that.’”
To that end, Paul had to undergo high-speed car handling training to pull off much of his driving in the film himself. At Willow Springs Race Track in California’s high desert, he learned the intricacies of sliding and drifting around corners, doing a reverse 180, and the ability to hit precise marks (so as to not hit a camera while shooting). Paul explains, “Scott wanted us to learn the practicality of the maneuvers, but also how to look cool when doing it.”
While a highly competent supporting cast surrounds Paul, his real co-star in the film is the brand-new 2015 Ford Mustang. Shown through much of the movie as a highly modified, one of a kind model capable of 250 miles per hour; at the end of the film, Paul literally rides off into the sunset in the yet to be released production version of Ford’s galloping pony—just in time for its 50th anniversary.
A rollicking romp of a ride, Need For Speed is definitely worth a go-see.
It doesn’t suck.