The Movie Crash
I don’t normally review English movies coz they don’t affect me emotionally, as much as Indians movies do. Reviewing for me is more an emotion driven act than a critical, objective exercise. Crash is one of the few English movies, out of the tons I’ve watched this year, that really touched an emotional chord. Crash – ’’Moving at the speed of life, we are bound to collide with each other. ’’…This is the tagline for the movie. This movie is set in Los Angeles and explores tense racial relations amongst the various communities that exist in LA.
Crash is an ensemble piece in which the stories of different characters intersect and intertwine…kinda like Tom Cruise’s Magnolia. Each of the sub-stories involves racism, which is the central theme of the film. Other than racism, the film also highlights the alienation and isolation of the individual in a big city. The title “Crash” comes from the fact that the movie is full of car crashes and people colliding into one another, which, as one of the central characters in the movie states, seems to have become the only way people connect with each other today.
Plot – It is hard to outline a plot here. There is so much going on in the movie at all times, so many different characters, so many plot twists. You have Sandra Bullock and Brendan Fraser playing a white, upwardly mobile couple who are victims of a car-jacking, at the hands of a couple of black guys, further increasing their prejudices. You have the black car-jackers, Ludacris (the hip hop star) and Larenz Tate, who are quite unrepentant about what they’ve done, who feel as long as they are not robbing their own community they are “Aw.. iight”.
Then there is a Korean guy who’s run down by these car jackers while they are speeding away. As the audience, you are tempted to feel sorry for the Korean guy, but maybe he’s not a victim after all…maybe he’s involved in crimes even greater than stealing. There is Matt Dillon, as a frustrated, stressed traffic cop, who pulls over a black couple for a very trivial reason and harasses them unforgivably just because “he can” (very bollywood, corrupt cop style). Ryan Philippe plays his partner, who is quite disturbed by Matt’s behaviour, but is too much of a rookie to have a say.
Don Cheadle plays an upright black cop, who is kind of at the centre of this movie, almost like the conscience of the movie, but he too has his own prejudices, and is not above stereotyping his Hispanic girlfriend. These are only some of the subplots in a very busy storyline. If this sounds complicated on paper, well, it is. I had to watch this movie thrice to get all the subplots. But like a patchwork quilt, the mismatched parts and pieces all come together to create a whole that’s far more significant — and, thankfully, understandable — than the mere sum of its parts.
None of the characters are completely bad or completely good…they all have their shades of grey, and most of them have a chance to play the perpetrator of racial prejudice and the victim of it…. …which is pretty true to life. Casting – The casting of the movie is truly inspired. Sandra Bullock, Brendan Fraser, Ludacris…artists who haven’t done roles like this before, are wonderful. Don Cheadle is nothing less than brilliant. In one scene, he doesn’t say a word; he simply walks away. And yet the look of naked anguish on his face actually brought me physical pain as my heart broke for him.
Matt Dillon is surprisingly good as a man who exemplifies both the worst and the best of humankind. In fact, there’s not a bad, or even a mediocre, performance in the film. Crash actually uses its many facets to tell a story of mutual racial intolerance and of snap judgments based on nothing more or less than skin color or an accent. It seems easier for us to deal with a stereotype than to take the time to get to know someone. I guess what I felt after watching the movie was that I was just as guilty of racism as the next person.
This is not a movie you’ll walk away from with a smile, but you will leave with something to think about and discuss for days to come. It also made me think about the alienation factor, which is so prominent in Western society, and maybe in some big cities in India as well. I watched this movie with my mother in tow, who likes to “talk” movies as much as I do. When we left the hall, we found ourselves strangely silent, looking around us, scrutinizing other people who’d watched this movie in the theatre, wondering what they felt, trying to eavesdrop on their conversation, being very “racially” aware, and yet wanting to connect.
We weren’t the only ones, we were being similarly checked out by other movie goers! Normally, at least outside India, one doesn’t really “look” at other people in the hall…one is content to discuss the film with whoever you’ve been watching it with and then go about your business. So I guess this film did get its message across really well. Do watch this film. It will make you think and feel. Please do comment on this review… even if you havent seen this movie, do you have any opinions on some of the themes this movie addresses?