Crash (2005) is a rather odd but fascinating movie that I watched for the first time a couple of weeks ago. It concerns several people from disparate walks of life, widely divergent cultures, different socio-economic backgrounds, and traces each of them over a single day, weaving in and out of their lives, establishing tentative (at first) relationships that eventually converge in surprising ways.
The movie begins at the scene of a crash where we meet several characters we don’t realize we will see again as the story progresses. Each of the lives holds a closely guarded secret; each of them, no matter their heritage, harbours racist attitudes: the white district attorney whose vehicle is hijacked by two young black men and wants to spin the event so that it won’t lose him the election, his wife who is angry all the time and believes the event proves her perspective which profiles blacks, the black men who complain that they’re looked down on because people assume they’re part of the criminal element based on looks except they are part of the criminal element, the Persian store owner who wants to buy a gun for protection but exchanges racist remarks with the owner of the gun store, the Chinese man who is struck while standing beside his van and only later do we realize what his cargo is, two white cops — one who uses his power to harass non-whites, the other who disapproves only to realize later that he perhaps harbours some stereotypical attitudes himself, and a wealthy black couple who are the subject of this harassment and turn on each other because of their different reactions.
There are three really decent people in this movie: a latino locksmith, Daniel, who stays calm when he faces racist abuse and has moved with his wife and 5-year-old daughter to a better neighbourhood so she won’t be frightened by gunshots in the night, the daughter of the Persian convenience store owner who picks up the gun after her father storms out of the store, and the DA’s housekeeper.
We witness a few racist verbal exchanges at the scene of the crash, and then the story backs up 24 hours. As the various individual stories unfold, we begin to pick up on relationships and realize that every culture holds racist views and most are based on misunderstandings through a language, religious, colour or class barrier. Many of the scenes are uncomfortable to watch and many (but not all) of the characters begin to recognize that they themselves are part of the problem and how far they will go to either try to change or opt to cover it up.
This is a movie that makes you think and try to relate the incidents to situations you have seen or been part of yourself. As the movie culminates back at the crash scene, the individual stories dovetail and there are many surprises. There are many lesser-known actors and actresses but some names stand out: Sandra Bullock, Matt Dillon, Tony Danza, and Jennifer Esposito. The movie won two Oscars for director/screenwriter Paul Haggis — Best Movie and Best Writing, Screenplay. It won the BAFTA Best Screenplay award and had many other nominations. If you haven’t seen this movie and are looking for something different and profound, this is your movie. I’m not certain that ‘enjoy’ is the right word but you won’t be disappointed. * * * * 1/2