10 September 2005

Crash Movie Review

I just finished watching the film Crash. I must confess that when I saw the ads for a film set in L.A. dealing with racism, I didn't have high expectations. I'm happy to report that I came away very impressed by the film. It provides a very balanced treatment of the controversial topics or violence and racism. Unlike in so many films, the violence (much like the real thing) is depicted as extremely disturbing and traumatic. At the same time, racism, while ugly, is shown as stemming from definite causes (mostly tragic misunderstandings).

The film's realism and emotional appeals comes from the way it draws people as ambiguous figures--at once puppets propelled by events but also as free agents acting within the realm of existential choices. To realize this effect, the director (Paul Haggis) does an excellent job of depicting characters in a sort of bifurcated manner--as if caught in a Picasso sketch. One moment we have a somewhat stereotypical hard-edged Asian lady screaming racist epitaphs at everyone, and the next moment she's leaning over a hospital bed showing profound concern for an injured man.

The film is a complex patchwork of interwoven stories. One of the key stories involves a black detective whose mother wants him to find their wayward son. The story echoes some Biblical parables (the prodigal son, the story of Cain and Abel), bringing us to the moral of the movie (if there is one)--the question of whether we are our brother's keeper. The film suggests that the answer is yes.


Anonymous said...

I just watched the movie last night. I got a little more out of it. The movie presented the tragic intertwining the lives of a handful of LA residents of disparate "ethnic" backgrounds for whom negative assumptions about other races were automatic as if they were programmed. In these charaters I saw people who tended to project the powerlessness they felt in their own lives onto people of other races when they had the chance. For instance, the cop had an internal resentment for blacks, and projected what power he had during an ugly incident, but when faced with a life or death situation, acted with heroism and compassion. Some characters got to come to realize how they had been acting before the movie ended and started to change, yet some unfortunately did not.
All of the characters in this movie (and real people as well) were not born this way; they are taught this behavior by a system which perpetually places us at each others throats. The entire movie is only possible, and relevant, in a society where hatred and distrust of those who are not like us is instutional and ingrained into everyone's subconscious.

Karlo said...

Interesting comments. It's an intrguing and though-provoking movie, isn't it. It's rare to come across an mainstream American film that does such a good job of portraying real people.

Anonymous said...

I agree, the movie was very interesting. However, Crash annoyed me because the characters were unrealistic. They were all bi-polar racists, especially the cops. Ryan Phillipe's character was annoyed by his partners racism. He also had the fortitude to talk down another gun-wielding black guy, but when he picks up the black guy in his car he immediatly feels threatened and insecure? People can act one way and behave another but behavior does not vary this much.