Directed by: Paul Haggis
Starring: Don Cheadle, Sandra Bullock, Matt Dillon, Thandie Newton, Brendan Fraser, Terence Howard
Films which feature several interlocking stories often walk a fine line between works of genius or a confusing muddle of characters and plot. It is without doubt a risk at the best of times, so for Crash to attempt this with no less than thirteen characters in eight interlocking storylines is something akin to Hollywood suicide. However with Paul Haggis at the helm, this film overcomes the odds and serves up a treat.
It’s an ordinary 36 hours in L.A. where the thirteen individuals’ lives come crashing head-first into each other, all facing their own personal and private conflicts, and sharing the problems of those they unwittingly encounter. Haggis is even willing to question some pretty weighty issues: how do you raise a family in the most gun-friendly ghetto in Los Angeles? Would you let a police officer with a previous for abuse save you in a crisis? How do you face the mistrust surrounding you in an ethnic minority? These are just a few of the questions Haggis confronts his characters with.
Themes of racial inequality, ethnic living spaces and gender division are rife throughout, and tackled from several perspectives. Indeed it is the multiple perspectives that this film offers which is truly absorbing, and as such, no character comes across without making you offer some genuine sympathy for their situation.
Matt Dillon, as the sexually abusive and racist police officer who’s caring for his ill father, is on fine form, and the role is easily one of the best performances of his career, displaying the intricacies of a public figure who finds racial difference the perfect excuse for the problems facing his father. Terence Howard and Thandie Newton playing the television director and his wife are also a highlight, with their fractious chemistry coming across so real, it’s hard not to feel for their troubled relationship.
And that’s the real secret to this film. Reality. The storylines are so achingly real and immersive that it’s easy to forget you’re watching a work of fiction. The eight storylines interweave so cleverly it never feels forced, and perhaps even more impressively, it’s never predictable, with some genuine surprises rewarding the viewer towards the latter end of the film.
With some fantastic scriptwriting from Haggis and Robert Moresco, and thoroughly engaging performances by the cast (there isn’t a bad enactment throughout), this film is stunningly beautiful. Few films have captured the issues of racial and gender roles so potently and made the interweaving storyline work so well. Crash is the kind of film that leaves you numb after watching it, and that is perhaps the greatest compliment you can give. A must see.