When the credits finally rolled in “Crash,” directed by Paul Haggis, I realized I was out of breath. “Crash” manages to squeeze multiple plot lines, all filled with drama and excitement, into its short 113 minute run time. The plot focuses on the lives of several families in Los Angeles and, like the film “Magnolia,” builds each of the stories simultaneously while the characters’ lives interconnect. Don’t, however, mistake this film for a “Magnolia” rip-off. While the film lacks the incredible style and pacing of “Magnolia,” it makes up for it with its strong premise and performances.
The key to the movie is racism, a subject so broad and so complicated that only few have the ambition to tackle it head-on. However, “Crash” manages to get it right. As an illustration of the complicated brilliance of the film, the example of Matt Dillon’s character, a bigoted cop, drives the point home. The film shows us many scenes where the officer’s hatred pushes him to do wrong to unsuspecting and undeserving black people. Throughout the film, you discover the origins of his behavior, how it affects the people he encounters, and, most stunningly, that he is not an evil person. He even becomes a hero, at one point, when he rescues a black woman from a burning car. Every character in the movie is three-dimensional, none of them are entirely good or entirely evil.
Every action in the film has a real consequence, and we all bear witness while small situations continue to escalate, causing even well-intentioned people to do truly evil things. Explaining all the intricacies of the story would take pages and pages: Trust me when I say it is truly stunning.
The film registers many great performances. First, there is Don Cheadle who continues his streak of challenging and intriguing roles. Second, there is a mix of well-knowns and up-and-comers, including the likes of Ryan Phillippe, Ludacris and Michael Pena. There is also some surprising work from stars that we know and love (or hate). Dillon (“There’s Something About Mary”) and Sandra Bullock (“Miss Congeniality”) are particularly excellent in the film.
Don’t expect to leave “Crash” with any answers. The movie does not attempt to give a definitive answer to what we can do to stop racism or who is to blame. It does, however, show the faulty logic and poor communication between different racial factions that lays at the heart of many problems this country faces today. Above all else, the film shows the importance of being open-minded in a society where racism is still a pressing and prevalent issue.