Movie Reviews Crash

Being a film enthusiast by nature and by education, you can imagine how disappointed I was at the announcement of Oscar nominations that I had not seen any of the five films nominated for Best Picture.  I have made my way through three of the films, and I can say without hesitation that Crash is the most complex and profound of the bunch.


Writer/director Paul Haggis tells the stories of over a dozen characters making their way through 36 hours in the harsh and racist environment of Los Angeles.  These characters include two city investigators, two car thieves, the D.A. and his high-maintenance wife, a television director, a racist cop and his indignant partner, a repairman.  All the performances are powerful, and many showcase popular actors cast against type: especially Brendon Fraser, Sandra Bullock, and Matt Dillon. 


I would go so far as to say that the main character in Crash is Providence.  As the individual stories intersect in surprising ways, it is impossible not to consider the force behind such awesome coincidences.  Despite their best attempts to isolate themselves from the world around them, Providence causes them quite literally to crash into one another.  In fact, Haggis opens the film with Don Cheadle's character musing about this isolation after being rear-ended: “We miss that sense of touch so much that we crash into each other just so we can feel something.”


It is this theme in Crash that illuminates the importance of human relationships; we cannot escape our need for one another.  The characters demonstrate this human interdependence beautifully as their choices determine the course of one another's lives.  For instance, in one astonishing moment, an especially unsympathetic character saves the life of a woman whom he had actually molested earlier in the film.  This turn of events is shocking, and it shows that these individuals are subject to one another, whether for benefit or for harm.  Here, Crash echoes the communion of the Body of Christ: “If one member suffers, all suffer together” (1 Cor 12:26).


Communion is evident also in the unpredictable circumstances that equalize all characters.  Those who are initially filled with malice soon redeem themselves, and those who win our esteem fall into the gravest sins.  Despite race, class, or presumed righteousness, all are simultaneously subject to serious sin and capable of heroic generosity.  Is Haggis simply exposing our fallen nature?  I think it is instead a glorification of the virtue of humility.  Those who think they are above sin are ultimately most susceptible to it.  The only character who does not fall is the humble repairman, who seems only concerned with doing his work and loving his family, even allowing himself to be wrongly accused like so many of the saints.


Aesthetically, Crash is without a doubt the best film I have seen released in 2005.  Its images are sometimes beautiful and sometimes brutal but always poignant.  Often, some detail of a shot echoes a shot from a different scene, and this visual rhyme draws important parallels between the various stories.  In this way, Haggis plays with our expectations, often leading us to predict where the film is going, only to subvert our assumptions and make us aware of our own prejudices.


There is much more to say about this incredible film.  For the sake of brevity (of which I am rarely accused), I will only recommend that you see it for yourself.  Crash owes its R rating primarily to offensive language; it also contains one sex scene that is brief though somewhat graphic.  For adult audiences, I am thoroughly convinced that this movie's powerful message redeems any objectionable content.  Still, please do not expect Crash simply to entertain you; rather expect it to haunt you and to make you think.

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