Now I know why “Crash” won the best picture Oscar in 2004. What I don’t know is why it took five years for someone to tell me to see it. There are a lot of reasons why I didn’t see it earlier. For one, I knew it was about racism and I tend to shy away from films with topics that reflect society too closely. That’s not to say I don’t watch those movies; “American History X” is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. My point is that there is enough of that in the real world and I like to watch movies to escape from the real world. I think another reason is that it just looked like another typical movie that the motion picture academy touts, but that isn’t very interesting to the general moviegoer.
The thing that everyone left out when talking about this movie is the way in which it was presented. Had it been done in a typical serial form, it probably would have been a dull film. Instead, they give us several character arcs that are all converging (crashing; get it?) at one point or another. What keeps the viewer interested are the connections the characters have with each other. It also helps that nearly every character is played by a recognizable actor (though this usually makes movies suck). Matt Dillon, Brendan Fraser, Sandra Bullock, Ludacris, Don Cheadle, Jennifer Esposito, Terrance Howard, Thandie Newton, Ryan Phillipe, and Larenz Tate and those are just the actors whose names I know.
The film starts like many of the films from the late 1990’s and early 2000’s; by showing you something from the end, then going back in time. This one starts with two cops driving up to a traffic jam and being told that there is a dead body on the side of the road, and the Latina cop racially berating an Asian woman whom she rear-ended. At this point, they take us back to the series of events leading up to this point in time. The next scene is two African American guys leaving a restaurant, complaining about racism, then stealing a white couple’s car at gunpoint. These first 10 minutes set the theme of the movie; that everyone has prejudice and some of them are able to get past it. Others simply become the person that they thought they despised.
The clever part of the presentation is that each character’s arc is given to us a piece at a time instead of all at once. It helps the viewer to keep track of the timeline of the characters, so they don’t get distracted trying to put any of the pieces together. The filmmakers recognized that the presentation shouldn’t overpower the message of the film, only keep the film moving forward while staying interesting.
While this movie is interesting, I should warn you that parts of this film will disturb you (if not its characterization of the human race in general). In particular, Matt Dillon’s character molests a woman at a routine traffic stop, simply because of his prejudice and corruptness. What makes this scene extra disturbing isn’t that his partner only stares disgustedly at him, but that it’s all too easy to believe this kind of thing happens in real life. Racism and prejudice are not the only things this movie is trying to portray. It’s also the lack of response and action on the part of everyone else that is on trial here.
I don’t want to dissuade anyone from seeing this film. Tackling a sensitive topic that is still far too prevalent in society is a difficult thing to do without pissing off at least one group of people, but this film pulls it off magnificently.
Rating: However you get this film, it’s worth the money. If nothing else, you’ll spend the film recognizing people.