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22 May 2006

Crash (2004)

Don Cheadle (Graham), Matt Dillon (John Ryan), Thandie Newton (Christine), Ludicris (Anthony)

Paul Haggis (screenplay for Million Dollar Baby)

From IMDB: "Several stories interweave during two days in Los Angeles involving a collection of inter-related characters."

Crash was the surprise winner for the Academy Awards' Best Picture in 2006, beating out Brokeback Mountain and Good Night, and Good Luck (among others) for the win. While all three were entertaining films, in their own ways, I cannot say that any of this bunch is really mind-blowing.

I had no intention of seeing Crash until peer pressure made me do it. Plus, a friend of mine loaned me a copy! Now six days have passed since I watched it last week, making this my blog's most-delayed review. I have discussed the film extensively with my parents and Keven, which - unfortunately - means that some of the opinions listed here may not be wholly my own and may suffer because of my waning interest in the entire subject. Enough disclaimers...

I will start with what I through were the film's two strengths: the cast and the dialogue. Every performance from this multi-faceted, diverse, and A-list cast was organic, easy and real. Big-name personalities existed next to character actors without an obvious division between the two. I could list all of them by name, but I would feel obligated to link all of their surnames back to IMDB, thus increasing the length of time it will take to write this. Instead, I will suggest that fans of solid, convincing performances will not be disappointed by Crash. This film is proof positive that acting can elevate mediocre directing to a movie of near-art.

The dialogue was also first rate, if a little heavy-handed for the sake of this movie's high-impact examination of American race relations. No one pulled any punches when discussing their innermost racial fears, which made each scene crackle with tension. People in real life my not speak so openly about their racism, making this dialogue somewhat unrealistic but also bold and entertaining.

However, Crash also had two significant drawbacks: Haggis's lack-luster direction and his hideous contrivance of a storyline. The film's sparkle and flare came from the snap-sharp dialogue delivered by a whole host of fantastic performers. The direction, however, was stilted and obvious. I had to turn on the closed captioning because the balance between the dialogue and the soundtrack was so bad; the music drowned out the words. Scenes lingered and plodded along, visually, relying almost entirely on the actors to provide interest.

And then there was the plot. Yikes! I was so busy trying to figure out how all of these people were going to coincidentally meet up with each other - because the whole story is based on coincidences - that I was distracted from the larger social commentaries that the observant dialogue created. Crash reduced the gigantic city of Los Angeles, the sheer size of which is forcefully and successfully portrayed in Collateral, to a small village. The effort it took to suspend disbelief was immense and largely futile. It was all just too much.

Was it the best picture of the year? Eh. Not really. (My current 2005 favorites are Sweet Land, Syriana, and The 40-Year Old Virgin.) Was it a frustrating morass of jumbled intentions? Yes. But I was grimly entertained and provoked.

Blogger Tess said...

Overall, I agree with your assessment. I thought Crash was a solid, thought-provoking movie, but certainly not the best of the year; Brokeback Mountain should have won.

The 40-year-old Virgin was very sweet.


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