Plot- Los Angeles citizens with vastly separate lives collide in interweaving stories of race, loss and redemption – Crash.
Director – Paul Haggis
Released – 2004
More than a few people were surprised when Crash beat out the favourite Brokeback Mountain to win Best Picture at the 2005 Oscars, but after revisiting this exploration into cause-and-effect racism, prejudice and redemption, maybe it was judged too harshly and the lessons it holds are just as relevant now as they’ve ever been and although some situations seem exaggerated and sometimes a little unlikely, the story still captivates. after all, a film doesn’t always have to be realistic, to successfully portray the nuances of American race relations and the uncomfortable truths that each must face.
Taking place over a 2-day period in a Los Angeles, Crash introduces us to a varied group of LA inhabitants whose lives intersect in a multitude of ways, both good and bad. And as the film proceeds and more of these characters intersect, the transformations each go through helps develop them into more than just stereotypes.
For example, at first Matt Dillon’s character Sgt. John Ryan seems nothing more than just another racist cop, but after delving a little deeper you come to realise he’s more complicated than that, eventually saving the life of someone he had previously wronged while others whose actions were seen virtuous may end up doing things that are less so. Sgt. Ryan puts it best when he tells his young partner, “You’re not who you think you are”.
Previously when I wrote that some situations that although exaggerated tends to work well in the confines of the story, some, however, do feel a little contrived, which is why I can, to a certain extent, understand why some felt Crash didn’t quite work and contained too many sub-plot, likening it to Love Actually or New Year’s Eve but about the many faces of prejudice, and while I do feel some elements weren’t as flesh out as others, such as one with an Asian man and a van which I must admit, I felt a little tacked on, but unlike the other ensemble cast productions for the time, the vast majority of the stories feel warranted.
With a cast as big as the one in Crash there’s always the risk that a couple of the performances may not be as polished as others, but, here you needn’t worry, with the likes of Bullock, Cheadle and Dillon providing their usual quality, laying the groundwork for the likes of Newton and Howard to excel and provide some more emotion-filled sequences.
The cinematography is equally impressive, balancing the mood of each character’s situation wonderfully. Haggis’s use of close-ups helps the audience gage the character’s psyche, while his wide shots show off the surprising beauty of this sprawling city. The soundtrack also happened to be a delight, with the daytime and the nighttime beautifully contrasting with one another.
Are there flaws? yes, absolutely, should it have won Best Picture? Debatable. But that doesn’t stop Crash from being a hugely enjoyable and culturally important movie, that reminds you that racism, pain and anger can take many forms and things aren’t always as binary as we would like. There are always shades of grey.