Welcome back to another Film Friday. This week’s film is the 2006 Academy Award winner for best picture, Crash. Crash takes place over a period of 24 hours in Los Angeles and tells a story of racism and relationships between multiple people who have no idea that their lives are connected.
The film is told through different stories that overlap with each other. The first story follows Anthony (Ludacris) and Peter (Larenz Tate) as they hijack the car of Jean Cabot (Sandra Bullock) and District Attorney Rick Cabot (Brendan Fraser). When the call goes out to find the car, Officer John Ryan (Matt Dillon) and Tom Hanson (Ryan Phillippe) pull over another car that matches the description. Inside the car they find director Cameron Thayer (Terrence Howard) and Christine Thayer (Thandie Newton) coming home from an award show. After Officer Ryan unnecessarily searches them, the officers send them on their way. Throughout the 24 hour period you learn about additional characters such as Daniel (Michael Pena), a locksmith trying to make a good life for his family, and detective Graham Waters (Don Cheadle), who is investigating a crime with his partner Ria (Jennifer Eposito) which may frame an innocent man.
This film has an incredible acting ensemble. As with any ensemble cast, there is no true “lead character”. Instead, it is comprised of many different supporting characters that interact with each other. Three of the strongest performances in the film are Matt Dillon as racist police officer John Ryan, Sandra Bullock as Jean Cabot, the wife of the District Attorney, and Thandie Newton as Christine Thayer, the wife of the director which John Ryan pulls over. Matt Dillon plays this unlikable character that seems to be jaded by the life that he’s lived. Dillon plays him in a way that almost allows the viewer to sympathize with him. He was nominated for an Academy Award for this performance, and just stole any scene that he was in. Sandra Bullock was also outstanding in her role. Similar to Matt Dillon, she starts off as an extremely unlikable character, but she redeems herself due to circumstances that transpire in the film. She plays this character so vividly that I swear I grew up with her as one of the moms in my neighborhood. It is a shame she wasn’t nominated for an Oscar for this, because I think this was a great dramatic role for Bullock, who is mostly known for her comedic work. The final outstanding role was played by Thandie Newton. The scenes which she is in with Howard, who plays her husband, seem one-sided, with her acting skills coming out on top. Although a great actor himself, Howard’s subtle performance is outshined in every way by Newton. She steals the spotlight and refuses to give it up, and in doing so provides another performance overlooked by the academy.
The direction in this film is incredible. Told as little vignettes which overlap, the stories feel like they could be their own films. Many times films that have different perspectives or multiple overlapping stories focus too much on one story. Each story in this film had the perfect amount of screen time, which allowed the viewer to get a feel for the overall storyline and understand each individual story’s importance to the central theme of the work. Director and writer Paul Haggis had a way of making each story feel as important as the last one.
All and all, I think Crash is an Academy Award winning film that doesn’t get enough credit to it’s name. From the acting, to the direction, to the screenplay, this film will be one that will make you think twice about the random encounters in your life. Like always, I leave you with a question: do you think the people you encounter on the street are just random encounters, or do they serve a bigger purpose in your life?
5 out of 5 StarsCrash (2005) Lions Gate Films R, 112 Minutes