Movie Review: Crash

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Crash (2004) was on Film Four last night and I watched it because I had been so impressed with the writer-director Paul Haggis’s Million Dollar Baby which he had scripted the previous year.

Well, just as I think no one should form an opinion on euthanasia until they have seen Million Dollar Baby, no one should convince themselves they are dedicated anti-racists until they have seen Crash. It really is that good – a deserved winner of the 2005 Best Picture Academy Award.

Crash covers a 36-hour period in Los Angeles following the lives of a number of characters of different ethnic backgrounds. We are introduced early on to Matt Dillon’s racist police officer. However, we soon learn that it would be very unjust to just box him as a bigoted officer. He is also caring for his unwell (and dying) father. He is also extremely brave – we see him putting his own life in serious danger by cutting a lady loose from a car accident and rescuing her from certain death just as the car explodes. The identity of the rescued lady is deliberately ironic given an incident that occurs near the beginning of the film.

I don’t normally react loudly to films, but there was a truly stunning scene featuring an Iranian shopkeeper who has just had his store trashed by bigots, a Hispanic locksmith he believes (incorrectly) was involved in the attack and the locksmith’s young daughter with the ‘impenetrability cloak’. This scene had me shouting out in horror. There was a tremendous build up to this scene and the result was just breathtaking. One of cinema’s most compelling moments.

Haggis shows us that it is wrong to judge people so readily and he clearly believes in the power of redemption. Ostensibly ‘bad’ characters are shown acting in very noble ways while ‘good’ characters are shown as capable of murdering in cold blood. This is a film that deserves to be seen and debated upon.   

I have read some reviews by critics who regarded the screenplay as relying too much on implausible coincidences. However, I think that is to miss the point entirely. Haggis sets up these coincidental scenes to force us to look at ourselves and our own prejudices. He makes a convincing case that all of us are in need of redemption.

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