Acting under the cover of a Hollywood producer scouting a location for a science fiction film, a CIA agent launches a dangerous operation to rescue six Americans in Tehran during the U.S. hostage crisis in Iran in 1980.
Over a thirty-six hour period in Los Angeles, a handful of disparate people's lives intertwine as they deal with the tense race relations that belie life in the city. Among the players are: the Caucasian district attorney, who uses race as a political card; his Caucasian wife, who, having recently been carjacked by two black men, believes that her stereotypical views of non-whites is justified and cannot be considered racism; the two black carjackers who use their race both to their advantage and as an excuse; partnered Caucasian police constables, one who is a racist and uses his authority to harass non-whites, and the other who hates his partner because of those racist views, but who may have the same underlying values in his subconscious; a black film director and his black wife, who believes her husband doesn't support their black background enough, especially in light of an incident with the racist white cop; partnered police detectives and sometimes lovers, one Hispanic female ... Written by
Partway through Officer Ryan's rescue of Christine from her overturned SUV, the camera ran out of film, as evidenced by film sprockets appearing in the frame. This is an acknowledged goof from director Paul Haggis. See more »
It's the sense of touch. 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. I think we miss that touch so much, that we crash into each other, just so we can feel something.
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The film's title isn't shown until all of the opening credits are completed. See more »
Alas, here is a film mired by its excesses; one that comes so curiously close to moments of cinematic brilliance that all but embody the captivating possibilities of film-making, before disappointingly devolving backwards into a predictable, hammy and unbelievable preaching session.
Predictable because it follows standards and doesn't dare to take enough risks. Hammy because it is stiff, simple and suspiciously empty. Unbelievable because a woman is saved from an exploding car on a jam-packed LA freeway and booked into a hospital and the cop who saved her goes back to work minutes afterward and, apparently, her husband is never even notified of her accident (and, if he had been, wouldn't he have been concerned with her welfare and perhaps at least left work early to attend to her?). Later that day he is involved in a high-speed chase; the conclusion of this incident wants to impress us with its irony and depth, but the problem is that there is none. Irony is not irony when it is commanded to be so; these characters do not realistically bounce off each other as they do in Akira Kurosawa's "Rashomon" or Quentin Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction" Paul Haggis' screenplay is contrived, and every time their paths cross, it isn't so much because they could cross (as in "Pulp Fiction") it is because they must cross ways to service the furthering of the plot. It was irony in "Fiction" that the watch given to Butch was his father's saving grace and alternatively the cause of his own near-death. When the cop who sexually probed the woman ends up being her savior in "Crash," it isn't irony. It's a gimmick.
The film wants to challenge us, spiritually, intellectually, and emotionally it wants to be on the edge and it even thinks it is challenging but in all actuality, it's very light, and the Academy's choice of awarding it Best Picture substantiates this. "Crash" plays it safe, too often and frustratingly so. It wants to force us into second-guessing our mentality but this only makes it feel heavy-handed and manipulative. It proposes that people today (especially in areas such as Los Angeles) are racist and extends this theory by proving their apparent racism through actions and dialogue but this only works as a tool for awareness, not resolution. It worked with "Uncle Tom's Cabin" it opened doors for new racial policies but that was at a time when people's eyes needed to be open. It is now the twenty-first century, and bigots and racists know who they are and embrace this fact. We don't need a warning, anymore we need a solution, and "Crash" provides no solid answers.
But it does have its moments few and far between that are stunning. (The rescue sequence, for example.) Matt Dillon gives a stellar performance, rich with depth and brimming with angst and hatred. Don Cheadle, in a similarly small role (from a cast of seemingly dozens), manages to convey exactly what the film needs in the form of a very human (and therefore very flawed) man from a shaky background who is struggling to maintain his image whilst dealing with a turbulent family situation all of which comes to a breathtaking finale that doubles back on itself to the very beginning of the film.
Yet, for a movie with the gall to proclaim it is firmly rooted in humanity and wants to expose our inherent flaws, and wants to tell us we "don't know" who we really are, it does little to connect with its audience even on the most basic level. The movie is simply too silly to take seriously. There are the aforementioned moments that actually start to amount to something, and begin to captivate but are unfortunately dragged to a halting stop whenever Haggis tries to nail the point with a sledgehammer. An example of this: Everyone is constantly referring to racism in the script; one character is a conspiracy nut that thinks windows are put on buses to showcase the blacks "too poor" to afford anything other than public transportation. One character to the next is having an argument dealing with racial issues a black car thief claiming all whites are racist; a white woman ranting about blacks and Latinos; a light-skinned black woman calling her husband racial epithets; it's just one after the next, over and over; Haggis didn't need to do this. We didn't need to have the woman's feelings explained to us, explicitly, after she is unjustly probed by the bigoted police officer. Her face says it all it elicits fear, pain, hatred, and ultimately, deep upset over her husband's fragility and lack of manhood; the actions (or lack thereof) fulfilled by a man so utterly crippled by a fear of his own ethnicity that he denies himself the most basic human rights; peer respect at the cost of humility and debasement.
A better director would have stopped here. The face says it all. We don't need the rusty sledgehammer to drive the point in. Sometimes, all we need is the nail, and we can carry out the rest on our own.
Note: I give this film seven stars out of ten because some of its better moments outweigh the bad. I reserve giving it a higher rating due to the reasons above, but I do want to make it clear that some parts of the film were very good, and it's a real pity that Haggis was so inconsistent with the movie and couldn't have extended the better parts into a perfect whole.
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