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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. He is also an acting and dialogue coach. 



Need for Speed

Production country: 
United States
Running time (In minutes): 
Student film: 
Images from Need for Speed, 2014
Production year: 
March, 2014
Film Credits
Film director: 
Scott Waugh
Cast 1: 
Aaron Paul
Cast 2: 
Imogen Poots
Cast 3: 
Michael Keating
Cast 4: 
Dominic Cooper
Cast 5: 
Dakota Johnson
Festival Selection, Awards...
Festival selection, awards or citation already received and other comments... :
Film reviews: 
<p><strong><u>Need for Speed</u></strong></p> <p>Steven Spielberg/DreamWorks Pictures&rsquo; production Need for Speed is a rivetting car racing thriller, which, though inspired by a video-game, is compelling viewing, even as a stand-alone brand. It justifies the add-on 3D after-thought as a wise decision. Stunts that were confined to clever use of the principle of &lsquo;persistence of vision&rsquo;, and created by smart editing, in films of the 60s and 70s, like Bullitt and French Connection, come-off spectacularly smooth in this 2014 power-house. Originally auditioned for the villain&rsquo;s role, TV&ndash;star Aaron Paul delivers a high-octane performance, and Michael (Batman) Keaton plays to the (American) gallery with some panache, while seeming to be enjoying himself silly doing it.</p> <p>Based on the video game franchise that sold over 140 million copies, Need for Speed has as its protagonist Tobey Marshall (Paul), a blue-collar mechanic who races high horse-power cars in an unauthorised street-racing circuit. Struggling to pay his bank loan and keep his late father&rsquo;s garage afloat, he accepts the offer of wealthy race driver Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper), an old foe, to re-jig a Ford Mustang with enough fire-power to fetch a multi-million dollar price, against a 25% share in its sale price. Car broker Julia Maddon (Imogen Poots) is impressed with the result and convinces her principal to buy it for $2.7 mn. Later, Dino, in a rush of obsessive professional jealousy, causes the death of Tobey&rsquo;s best friend and his former girl-friend (now Dino&rsquo;s own gal) Anita&rsquo;s brother, Pete. He frames Tobey for the crime and Tobey has to do time in prison. Two years later, Tobey is released, and sees a chance to take down his rival Dino by defeating him in the high-stakes race known as De Leon, run by a mysterious motor-mouth, pill-popping promoter called the Monarch (Keaton).&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>On the debit side, Aaron Paul does not have killer looks and his voice is too hoarse for his persona. But there aren&rsquo;t too many scenes that demand high levels of emoting, and whatever is required, he conveys at par. What really works for him is a lot of rugged, underplayed energy. Blue-eyed and English rose-complexioned Poots is unconventionally attractive, like Paul, and the touch of (native) British accent and natural lisp add some fun to her character. There is an indulgent scene in which Paul and Poots exchange opinions about whose eyes are bluer, to counterpoise a life threatening story situation, done in good humour!</p> <p>Dakota Johnson as Anita strikes the right chords. As the doomed Pete, Harrison Gilbertson is sweet and charming. As the black air-pilot &lsquo;Maverick&rsquo;, Scott Mescudi is type-cast and, creditably, still endearing. Dominic Cooper looks good and adds the requisite menace to the proceedings.</p> <p>Need for Speed is written by the brothers George and John Gatins. John, who is into acting too, co-produced the film, while George is a ceramic engineering graduate, bringing his childhood love for automobiles to the big screen. As a teenager, George Gatins owned an orange 1972 BMW 2002. &ldquo;I drove it like a maniac,&rdquo; says George. See the film, and you will know what he means.</p> <p>Director Scott Waugh&rsquo;s father was a stunt co-ordinator. Scott is a stunt veteran himself, having been associated with films like Spider-Man and Spielberg&rsquo;s own Hook. As director, he is remembered for Act of Valor (2012), which he co-directed with partner Mike (Mouse) McCoy. Spielberg saw Act of Valor, and offered Scott Need for Speed. Waugh cites Smokey and the Bandit and Grand Prix as inspirations. You could add Top Gun. Nevertheless, there is plenty in this film that he can be genuinely proud of. Break-neck action on wheels and in the air is well-balanced with dramatic points.</p> <p>As can be expected, the story-line is rather thin. Among the few loopholes is the unexplained need for the lead duo to drive for 45 hours from New York state to California, in a race against time, when they could have easily arranged to airlift their car instead. Yet, it is no mean task to evenly pace a 234 m.p.h. scenario over 130 minutes. Given a PG-13 certification in the US, it is being released in India just a week after its American premi&egrave;re, on 21 March, which marks the festival of Naoroz, observed by Parsis and Irani Muslims, with a UA certificate, allowing children to see it, when accompanied by adults.</p> <p>Need for Speed is one adrenaline rush that surges way ahead of its alliterative title, and is, very much, value for money. Only don&rsquo;t ignore any red lights while heading for the cinema where it is playing, and drive even more carefully on your way back.</p> <p>Rating: ****</p>
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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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