Written and directed by Paul Haggis, the drama Crash from 2004 won Best Film, Best Original Screenplay (for Paul Haggis and Robert Moresco), and Best Film Editing at the Academy Awards. It is rated R for language, sexual content, and some violence. It employs an ensemble cast whose characters weave in and out of each other’s lives over a 36-hour period in Los Angeles.
This film has at its core an examination of racism and prejudice. The characters are a cross-section of America in ethnicity, social class, and religion. Police officers figure prominently in this tale of tragedy and thankfully, in some cases, redemption.
The best most heart wrenching moments in the film are those with Daniel (Michael Pena), a Hispanic locksmith with a young daughter Lara (Ashlyn Sanchez). He faces discrimination for nothing more than basically sporting tattoos on his person from Jean (Sandra Bullock), who has the locks changed on her home after being carjacked at gunpoint with her husband, district attorney Rick (Brendan Fraser). She suspects Daniel’s a gang member and can’t be trusted to change the locks in her home. While Daniel works on a job at a convenience store, an encounter with the shop owner Farhad (Shaun Toub) creates such bitterness in Farhad’s soul that he goes after Daniel. This was a brilliant piece of writing that translated well to the screen.
Despite a best original screenplay win, some of the dialogue feels a bit didactic. Maybe it’s the delivery, or just that there was so much to delineate and say about race relations in LA that it couldn’t come off as more natural sounding dialogue. Again, the story lines about Daniel and Farhad are the most genuine and natural and well performed. A lot of the other characters are just spouting off long diatribes about the state of affairs in LA and really all of America in terms of race and prejudice. In the 13 years since Crash was released, not much has changed in terms of some still harboring fear and prejudice of anyone who is different from them in terms of sexual orientation, religion or race.
Other cast members include Don Cheadle, Jennifer Esposito, Matt Dillon, Ryan Phillippe, Thandie Newton, Terrance Howard, Loretta Devine, and Tony Danza. They were cast well in their roles and all do a good job with the situations they were asked to portray.
Crash is the kind of film where you really have to pay attention to every encounter, and then at the end, the missing links between the characters come around full circle. I basically like the film despite its preachy message. About every ethnic group is represented here; African-Americans at two extremes of social class, Asians, Hispanics, Muslims, white privileged upper class, and basically working class law enforcement. The weaving back and forth between stories works to draw the viewer along and stay engaged with the film. You’re always wondering what will happen next to the person on screen, and to the relationships between the characters.