Crash English Movie Review

Feature Film
Jul 21, 2005 By Subhash K. Jha

Why am I always angry?" District Attorney Brandon Fraser's hyper-strung wife Sandra Bullock wants to know at the end of the film.

Why does modern life kill our calmness with such systematic synergy? "Crash", one of the most accomplished pieces of cinema to have emerged from the US in recent months, has one helluva large roster of angry people, seething under the weight of their disgruntled existence, fighting prejudice, combating the constant daily onslaught on their self-regard, but emerging triumphant nonetheless within 24 hours of playing time.

The episodic movement of the plot is incredibly smooth and guileless. This heroic film of epic stature has a lot of behind-the-scenes heroes, primary among them being the screen-writers - Robert Moresco and Paul Haggis and the editor - Hughes Winborne - who combine their might to make the episodic narrative tight and yet so right that you never feel the cinematics of the human story.

The characters emerge from the skilful play of sound, sight and emotions holding us tightly in an embrace of art and life. So unstrained is the blend that you never know where art ends and life begins. You come away from these beleaguered people believing that prejudice and malice are a prelude to a final state of calm acceptance and self-regard.

Hence we have a bigoted racist cop (Matt Dillon) rescuing from a car crash the very black woman (Thandie Newton) whom he had humiliated the night before... The ambitious Black American officer (Don Cheadle) whose mother blames him for sacrificing his kid-brother at the altar of his ambitions... An Iranian (Shaun Toub) paying the price for 9/11 with anger resentment and near-catastrophe...

Every character in this criss-crossing pastiche of feelings and emotions is an individual born out of stereotypical societal statements on race relations in the US. Director Paul Haggis' main concern is to get close-ups of the distraught human heart as it leaps forward to challenge confront and finally embrace the human spirit.

The impeccably mounted plot keeps you enthralled, not for its narrative pyrotechnics but its sheer statement on humanism and compassion.

Whether it's the locksmith (Michael Pena) who just wants a safe home with his wife and little daughter, or the two frightened but aggressive outcasts who steal cars, or the rookie cop (Ryan Philippe) whose sensitive conscience baulks at the bigotry that besieges his profession... fringe people in American society have never been portrayed with such transparent vividness and moving sincerity.

It would be a moral crime to single out any one performer among the dozens and dozens of actors who pitch in their prowess to propel Haggis' thesis on the human spirit so strongly redolent of the rhythms of real life. Not one actor looks like he knows of the existence of a camera capturing his or her feelings.

The secret of the success of "Crash", and the reason why it won the Oscar for best picture is that it hugs rather than patronises the people at the periphery of a supposedly mature and developed society and tells us that people in any part of the world are the same: insecure and disoriented, frightened by the responsibility of carrying around their cultural and religious identity.

Somewhere down the line we all need to stop being political animals, to regain our human qualities. That's what "Crash" does. It redeems our faith in the power of the motion picture to re-define those spaces that separate the audience from the screen. The people who suffer and emerge absolved at the end are entities we have met.

Subhash K. Jha