Racism in films is always a hard portrayal; studios tend to avoid the subject completely, as the risk of offending anyone. The other alternative is in films such as American History X, where the realism and subtlety of everyday bigotry is replaced with the violent viewpoint from inside the mind of the bigot. Luckily there are several intelligent filmmakers who will deal with important issues, in a diverse range of cinematic releases, and I have to say that Crash is one such film. Anyone who has ever been a victim of abuse because of creed, colour, gender, ethnicity, or religious belief will empathize with the way this screenplay unfolds.
The film has a plethora or known stars and an excellent screen writer turned director in Paul Haggis, who turns the everyday stereotypes we all have into a rollercoaster of emotion. The film covers the events over a thirty six hour period. In the style of Robert Altman films or more recently the big screen version of “Traffic”, we have a web of stories combined into the narrative. The skillful cinematic handling turns this complex screenplay into compulsive viewing. We are left with an ambitious commentary that puts across the inherent paranoia and ignorance that creates our world.
An attourney and his wife (Brendan Fraser and Sandra Bullock) are car jacked by two young black men (Ludacris and Larenz Tate). Later Bullock orders the locks to be changed twice as the first locksmith is a Hispanic man. A black director (Terrence Howard) and his wife (Thandie Newton) are stopped after committing a lewd act whilst driving, yet the officers who stop them (Matt Dillon and Ryan Phillippe) proceed to degrade the couple horribly. A legitimate Persian store owner (Shaun Toub), is mistaken for an Arab antagonist, and buys a gun to protect his family. Don Cheadle plays a detective who unites these events, when he finds a body in the road. From the outset we can see that everyone has had some part to play in the murder.
The acting is superb on all counts but I draw particular reference to Ryan Phillippe and Sandra Bullock, who plays against her traditional casting, and finally proves there is more to her than Miss Congeniality.
Crash is disturbing, compelling and utterly riveting. The realms of good or bad are blurred here. These characters are just people reacting in interracial situations. This film does not offer the solution to the everyday effects, or subconscious causes of racism. It can at times voice direct opinions through the characters dialogue, but this is a tiny price to pay for what we have here.