While LAPD rising star Graham Waters (Don Cheadle) and his colleague (and lover) Ria (Jennifer Esposito) are investigating a politically sensitive shooting, he pays a rare visit to his heroin addicted mother. Anthony (Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges) and Peter (Larenz Tate) interrupt an ongoing argument about black stereotyping to steal at gunpoint the SUV of District Attorney Rick Cabot (Brendan Fraser) and his lonely wife Jean (Sandra Bullock) and, as their argument continues, they accidentally run over a middle-aged Korean standing by his van. Idealistic rookie cop Hansen (Ryan Phillippe) requests reassignment, after witnessing his more experienced partner Ryan (Matt Dillon) harassing upper middle-class black couple Cameron and Christine (Terence Howard, Thandie Newton). Mexican locksmith Daniel (Michael Pena) tucks his five-year-old daughter Lara (Ashlyn Sanchez) into bed, before having an altercation with beleaguered Iranian customer Farhad (Shaun Toub).

With its incendiary ethnic tensions and elaborate multi-narrative structure, Crash is like the twisted wreckage left by a collision between Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing and Robert Altman's Short Cuts. Co-writing once again with Bobby Moresco, after their success with Million Dollar Baby, Paul Haggis has chosen for his directorial debut an intricate ensemble piece about race and rage, in which, over a period of 36 hours in the lead up to Christmas, different crashes - both real and metaphorical - drive a myriad of deftly drawn characters to greater understanding (or in some cases misunderstanding) of one another and of themselves, as their insulated, disconnected lives are suddenly torn open and exposed to the harshest of elements.

Copy picture

Like Jill Sprecher's Thirteen Conversations About One Thing, the film features apparently unrelated episodes that turn out to be intimately, if chaotically, connected, as the paths of different characters cross and interweave with surprising consequences, and emotions guarded in one scene are given full vent in the next. The result is a portrait of anger and anxiety misdirected, where tragic catastrophes and miraculous epiphanies can all be traced to the most unlikely beginnings and where a moment's pause can mark the difference between a person's redemption and their fall from grace.

One might suppose that a film with so many storylines would inevitably resort to cursory sketches, but on the contrary it is the complexity and mutability of Haggis' characters that both define them and offer a graphic illustration of the power of prejudice. By repeatedly allowing unexpected aspects of personality to emerge under extreme circumstances, Haggis makes viewers themselves unwitting participants in the false assumptions and unjustified biases that his characters enact.

Race has long been the most unstable, combustible ingredient in America's melting pot and Crash tackles it head on, prodding and provoking where other films would flinch and cower. Throw in some superb acting, wince-makingly smart dialogue and ingenious cause-and-effect plotting and the result is a searingly powerful, at times transcendent, examination of a nation's culture, alienated from, and afraid of, itself.

Reviewed on: 13 Aug 2005
Share this with others on...
Crash packshot
Slice of Los Angeles paranoia, incorporating fear, anger, racial tension and a miracle.
Amazon link

Read more Crash reviews:

Angus Wolfe Murray ****1/2
Themroc **

Director: Paul Haggis

Writer: Paul Haggis, Bobby Moresco

Starring: Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon, Jennifer Esposito, William Fichtner, Brendan Fraser, Terrence Howard, Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges, Thandie Newton, Ryan Phillippe, Larenz Tate, Tony Danza, Shaun Toub, Loretta Devine, Michael Pena, Keith David

Year: 2004

Runtime: 113 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US/Germany


Search database: