The International Writers Magazine

Directed and Written by Paul Haggis
Sandra Bullock .... Jean Cabot
Don Cheadle .... Det. Graham Waters
Matt Dillon .... Sgt. Ryan
Jennifer Esposito .... Ria
William Fichtner .... Jake Flanagan
Brendan Fraser .... Dist. Atty. Richard 'Rick' Cabot
Terrence Howard .... Cameron
Ludacris .... Anthony (as Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges)
Thandie Newton .... Christine
Ryan Phillippe .... Officer Hanson
Larenz Tate .... Peter Waters
Tony Danza ... Fred

Exploring the themes of racism and prejudice, chance and coincidence, cause and effect, and personal tragedy, "Crash" is an honest portrayal of the seething discontent and change that is the LA of today. Set over a 24-hour period in contemporary L.A., it is a comment on life in modern LA.
A place so different to the city of 30 years ago.

Although the most obvious connection here is to PT Anderson's brilliant 'Magnolia' 1999 even down to using Aimee Mann in the soundtrack as snow rather than frogs fall from the sky, the real antecedent is Joel Schumaker's Falling Down (1993) which thought he was telling of a personal nervous breakdown in LA, also showed us the transformation of the city that was filled with racist overtones and bubbling anger.

Crash is it's own film and an effective demanding drama at that that gets to grips with an LA poisoned by the well of anger and race hatred. Much like New York a hundred years ago, LA has had wave after wave of 'strangers' sweep through it since the 1970's and now almost everyone is a stranger, a different colour, a different religion and each one is suspicious of each other. I doubt LA was ever homogenous given it's history, but for the cops, in thier imagination, LA was once, probably a white town with 'christian' values (whatever they might be - lynching included). Now it is just a seething, angry place and watching this film is painful, but gripping and illuminating.

Almost everything that comes out of Hollywood now is so empty, so shallow and has so little intellectual value you retain nothing but disgust for the people who make such disappointing garbage as The Wedding Crashers, Fantastic Four, Bewitched, Charlies Angels 111; it's just so utterly mind numbing. Crash then punishes us and purges us, reminds us of the real world and like the fluid and mesmerising Collateral by Michael Mann, shows LA in a real, harsher light. It engages our minds and hearts and although we may not feel sympathy for many of the people in this film, we have all been guilty of sharing their thoughts about others and acknowledged or not, we are as frightened of strangers as they.

Terence Howard plays Cameron, the TV director who has to make daily compromises to keep his 'job' and when the racist cop Sgt Ryan feels up his wife at the side of the road he is powerless to defend her and is humiliated in front of her. Just one moment of truth in Crash.

Sandra Bullock plays against type as the neurotic, lonely rich bored wife who has just been robbed at gunppoint by two young black dudes, along with her husband, the District Attorney (who is having an affair with his beautiful black assistant). He is a white liberal, but doesn't want to to be seen pinning a medal on an Iraqi called Saddam. He is the consumate deceitful LA politician, hardly aware that he is racist. Don Cheadle is a black cop trying to do his best, honest, yet cynical. Matt Dillon (always underated and always amazing) plays an opportunistic cop who is racist but fate draws him towards Thandie Newton twice in one day. First he abuses her, then he saves her. It is the nature of this film to present us with coincidences without comment. (Much like Magnolia).

There is more, young and old characters resentful of what others have got, immigrants whose English leads to almsot fatal misunderstandings and Ryan Phillipe plays the good white cop who, as it turns out, is as suspicious as anyone else in a race situation with fatl consequences. There are black people making compromises for their career and being humiliated and white people falling victim to positive discrimination, chinese who are profiting on illegals and everywhere, someone wants what someone else has and discontent rules.

There are no redeeming characters, no easy answers, it's awkward viewing, but like Magnolia and Falling Down, these are films that go a long way to display the bitter truth of American life and this is compelling viewing.

See Crash and experience one of the most remarkable and well crafted films of 2005. Paul Haggis who wrote and directed this film and wrote (Million Dollar Baby) deserves more exposure. One would hope this film is remembered come Oscar time.

© Sam North Aug 22nd 2005
Sam is the author of The Curse of the Nibelung - A Sherlock Holmes Mystery
Lulu Press ISBN: 1-4116-3748-8


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