Oscar for Best Picture
A Review by Tom Condon, OP
(St. Martin Province)
A Brentwood housewife and
her DA husband. A Persian store owner. Two police detectives who
are also lovers. An African-American television director and his
wife. A Mexican locksmith. Two car-jackers. A rookie con. A middle-aged
Korean couple.They ey all live in Los Angeles. And during the
next 36 hours, they will all collide…
1 hour 40 minutes rated R
CAST: Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon, Jennifer Esposito,
William Fichtner, Brendan Fraser, Terrence Dashon Howard, Chris
"Ludacris" Bridges, Thandie Newton, Ryan Phillippe,
Larenz Tate, Nona Gaye, Michael Peña
makes Crash so noteworthy for an American film, is that it dares
to be about something. Crash dares to deal with racism, both explicit
“In any real city, you walk,
you know. You brush past people, people bump into you. In L.A.,
nobody touches you. We’re always behind this metal and glass.
People just want to touch. I think we miss that touch so much
that we crash into each other just so we can feel something.”
So begins Crash, the remarkable new
movie about life in contemporary Los Angeles. Crash marks the
directorial debut of Paul Haggis, screenwriter of the Oscar winning
Million Dollar Baby. Haggis also is co-author of Crash, with Bobby
Moresco. With these two very strong, yet different, films back
to back, Haggis definitely establishes himself as a filmmaker
to be reckoned with.
Crash takes place in a 24 period in
a winter night in Los Angeles. Haggis and Moresco seamlessly interweave
the stories of several character over this period: Anglo, African-American,
Latino, Middle Eastern and Asian. We are introduced to the District
Attorney and his wife, a TV director and his wife, police officers,
carjackers, a locksmith, and a shopkeeper. Their lives intersect
in unexpected ways, always delving deeper into these complex characters.
What makes Crash so noteworthy for
an American film, is that it dares to be about something. Crash
dares to deal with racism, both explicit and implicit. The situations
in Crash bring out the racial and ethnic prejudices just below
the surface. The characters often speak and behave in ways that
not only surprise one another. They surprise themselves as well.
These are the stereotypes that keep us apart, tense, and afraid.
Another remarkable aspect of Crash
is that the characters are remarkably complex. Every one has serious
flaws. At the same time, every character is deeply human, with
a capacity for compassion. These are not one-dimensional cartoon
characters which the audience can size up in 30 seconds. This
is a movie in which a blatantly racist cop risks his life to save
an African-American woman. At the same time, his partner, deeply
disturbed at the racism, finds unexpected racial attitudes in
himself that lead to tragedy. Everyone is guilty. However, no
one is beyond redemption.
is not perfect. The situations sometime seem contrived, as if
the screenwriters just had to come up with a scene in which the
characters would interact. (How about an auto accident in which
a car bursts into flames?) And, in a movie with so many characters,
some come across better than others. For example, the district
attorney’s wife, played by Sandra Bullock, seems underdeveloped.
Why is she so angry?
Crash boasts an amazing ensemble cast
that you might expect to find in a Robert Altman film. There are
familiar faces (Bullock, Brendan Fraser, Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon)
and others I hope to see more of in the future. Let’s hope
Crash gives all their careers a boost.
Crash is not always easy to watch. The language is strong. It
offers no easy answers. But it does offer hope that, even in the
complex urban society that most of us live in, there is humanity
in us all. “People just want to touch, to feel something.”
Crash doesn’t deny the fear that keeps us apart. At the
same time, it gives us reason to hope for something better.
Tom Condon, O.P.