Crash (***½)

Posted on July 1st, 2005 in Movie Reviews by EngineerBoy

Crash is set in current-day Los Angeles and uses a series of entertwined vignettes to illustrate how all of us are driven by our prejudices, preconceptions, misconceptions, and bigotry. The film is not preachy but instead lets us see all sides of each conflict, all viewpoints in each argument, and to understand that each perspective is not only based on emotion and dogma, but is also based, on some degree, on truth. Harsh truths, but truths nonetheless. Car thieves are more likely to be black, modern-day slaves are more likely to be Asian, overt bigots are more likely to be white, and virtually nobody in the US could tell the difference (or even care that there is a difference) between “Arabs” and Iranians.

The film is based on a very strong script, excellent direction, and bravura performances by the ensemble cast. Matt Dillon is first among equals as cop who…well…just see the movie. Also look for strong performances from Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Brendan Fraser, Ludacris, Terrence Howard, Michael Pena, Ryan Phillippe and Thandie Newton. Each of them also gives a strong performance and contributes to the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. There’s even a shockingly good cameo by Tony Danza (yes, *that* Tony Danza).

The character’s lives impact each other in ways that are a bit too closely knit to represent reality, but the quality of the script and story are such that it is easy to suspend one’s disbelief and simply accept that there are some implausible things happening on the screen, but for a good cause.

The story itself is gripping and entertaining, nothwithstanding the message, and the message is also clear and strong. We can’t all really know each other, so we have to judge each other on appearances, and even though those judgements may be rooted in fact, they are not always right nor fair, but neither are they always wrong or unfair. Some message, huh? It actually is a strong message, because in modern day America we’re not longer allowed to discuss racial issues in an open forum, because any acknowledgement that there are any differences between the races is tantamount to pulling a white hood over your head. But the truth is that there are differences, and some of those differences manifest themselves as conflict, while other manifest themselves as savory spices in the American melting pot.

In Crash, writer/director Paul Haggis has dragged raciality and racism out into the light for all of us to see, and seeing things clearly can only help make them understandable. And that’s what we need…more understanding. Understanding enough to acknowledge and tolerate our differences, while also acknowledging that we’re all Americans and we’re all in it together, so we might as well all get along.

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