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CRASH

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon, Jennifer Espisito, William Fichtner, Brendan Fraser, Terrence Howard, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Thandie Newton, Ryan Phillippe, Larenz Tate, Michael Pena
Director: Paul Haggis
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Lions Gate
Features: See Review
Length: 122 Minutes
Release Date: September 6, 2005

“It’s okay, Daddy…I’ll protect you.”

Film ****

Crash is, without question, the best film I’ve seen so far this year, and I’m doubtful if any other film in the remainder of 2005 will exceed its brilliance. I’ve already gone so far as to hail it as one of the best films of the decade. It goes without saying that it is most deserving of multiple Oscar nominations come next year’s ceremony.

In life, the truth of the matter is that we are all capable of doing good things. At the same time, we are just as capable of committing wrongful acts towards others. Crash, written and directed by Million Dollar Baby screenwriter Paul Haggis, is a remarkable and purely provocative film about this subject matter. Few films can lead me to say that they demand your attention, but this is just such a film.

Haggis’ passionate piece, which blends elements of Altman and Soderbergh, is a portrait of contemporary Los Angeles. Several stories intertwine concerning an array of various characters throughout the city. The main focus is racism and how basic people judge one another by what they see, and how that basic judgment of people can lead to something of a tragic nature. L.A. is a city that has had a history of unfortunate prejudice, and Crash is a film that, regarding this subject matter, is as authentic as it gets.

It all begins with a car accident to set the colliding stories in motion. The film then cuts back to the day prior to that accident. Rick Cabot (Brendan Fraser), the city District Attorney and his wife, Jean (Sandra Bullock), are coming back from dinner when they are suddenly approached by two carjackers (Ludacris and Larenz Tate). The incident leaves the couple shaken; particularly Jean whose prejudice escalates further to the point that she doesn’t even trust the Hispanic locksmith who’s working on their home door.

Meanwhile, rookie cop Hanson (Ryan Phillippe) is assigned to patrol with veteran cop Ryan (Matt Dillon). When they are told to be on the lookout for two young African Americans, Ryan pulls over a similar car, though the plates and driver description don’t match. The people they pull over are a couple (Terrence Howard and Thandie Newton) that Officer Ryan suspects of intoxication and possible lewd conduct. Because the couple happens to be black, Ryan finds it necessary to harass them, forcing his young idealistic partner to witness an unthinkable act.

Another story involves Detective Graham Waters (Don Cheadle), a black cop who is having an affair with his Latina partner, Ria (Jennifer Esposito). His ignorance shows when he refers to her as a Mexican, when in fact that she’s a descendent of Puerto Rico. Waters is also given pressure by his ill mother to find his brother, who maybe in trouble with the law.

I don’t want to reveal any further plot details, and truth be told I haven’t really revealed much at all. What I can say is that Crash is a film that truly surprises in ways few films are even capable of. Whether you find certain characters likeable or dislikeable, you will be astounded by how some characters go from bad to good and vice versa as the film progresses.

The movie also boasts one of the finest ensemble casts you will ever see in a single film. This represents a career high for each of the actors in the film, particularly Matt Dillon as the racist cop and Terrence Howard as a black television director who confronts being the victim of police harassment and being accused of being a sell out to his own race. Rapper Ludacris also makes a more than impressive acting turn as a hoodlum who is aware, more than anyone, of the racism that plagues society.

Haggis has crafted an ultimately powerful and haunting piece of cinematic drama. This is one film that will draw discussions from viewers afterward, and even more importantly, might even challenge our perception of everyday people. The characters in the film, even if they do or say things that are wrong, are capable of good just as those who appear kind and friendly are capable of doing bad.

The one thing that Crash demonstrates truthfully is that there is good and bad in us all, no matter how well we think we know ourselves.

Video ****

The look of Crash carries a distinct power all its own, and Haggis’ directing mixed with James Muro’s stunning cinematography, which mixes normal imagery with momentary high-contrast imagery, blend to make a remarkable looking presentation. Lions Gate’s superb anamorphic treatment delivers on all visual scales. Grain can be detected in the picture numerous times. It isn’t a flaw but rather part of the cinematography as was demonstrated in the theatrical print. This is an example of an outstanding looking disc in a most unconventional way.

Audio ***1/2

The 5.1 mix does strike some audio power for this mostly dialogue driven film. This mix should be given credit for individual moments involving composer Mark Isham’s poetic and beautiful score to the movie, which definitely helps in the emotional factor of the film. Dialogue is terrifically clear and extremely well delivered, and several sequences benefit a great deal from background sounds, providing a great dynamic sound.

Features ***

Included on the disc is an introduction from writer/director Paul Haggis, as well as a commentary track with Haggis, actor Don Cheadle and producer Bobby Moresco, a behind the scenes featurette, a soundtrack spot and trailer gallery.

Summary:

Crash is as powerful and emotionally wrenching as films get. It’s goes into uncomfortable areas and does have the ability to leave you shaken, as it explores both the good and bad sides that lay within us all. This is bold and poetic filmmaking that you simply can’t afford to miss!

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