Crash - Movie Review | Paul Haggis 2004


“I think we miss that touch so much, that we crash into each other just so we can feel something.”

Written and directed by Paul Haggis, 2004’s “Crash” is a complex story about several intertwined lives of characters that confront issues with race, stereotypes, culture, and life altering decisions. The film exhibits multiple examples of how race and perception of different cultures can effect decisions and impact peoples lives on a huge scale. In my opinion “Crash” was more about how ignorant and deceived we are as a public and the idea of karma more than anything. All together it addresses the main problems in our society related to differences in people on the outside and in. The film exhibited the interaction and views of White, Black, Hispanic, and Middle- Eastern cultures and the people that fell into these categories were interacting and interfering with the lives of others through a course of dramatic and seemingly insignificant events.

The film starts off with a car accident that involves Ria, played by Jennifer Esposito, and an Asian women that ignites an argument with the two women about who caused the accident and soon moved to racial tension because Ria was adamant that Asians can’t drive and was given even more ammunition when the women was speaking broken English and was pronouncing words incorrectly. The scene quickly changes to a gun store where a Middle- Eastern man was purchasing a gun for protection for his new store and the man had a very strong accent but was his fluent English speaking daughter. The gun salesman turns the conversation into how the man is responsible for his friends being blown up when his people crashed planes into buildings and had the man escorted out of the shop by security guards. Another scene change to Anthony (Ludacris) and Peter (Larenz Tate) walking out of a restaurant and discussing how the waitress didn’t serve them well because they were young black men and are perceived to tip poorly. The men then steal the car of Rick and Jean, played by Brendan Fraser and Sandra Bullock, and drive off. Another scene change takes us to Rick and Jean’s house were the locks are being changed by Daniel (Michael Pena) as Jean loudly talks about how she wants the locks changed again in the morning because she believes Daniel is in a gang and will sell the keys to his friends. So within the first few minutes of the film, every race that is addressed in this film has been involved in the plot and the tension has already begun to mount.

Insignificant actions turning into live changing events are an important part of this film because with the numerous characters lives all interwoven together make personal decisions affect the people around them significantly. These simple actions can lead to life altering events and things that seem unimportant to one person, can be eye- opening to someone else. A huge theme that runs throughout the film is the concept of karma and connections. Big events like the officer molesting the women after a routine traffic stop came back around when the officer refused to leave her side and got her out of a overturned car that exploded moments after the two of them escaped. Other scenes like Anthony and Peter running over the Asian man that had a van full of illegal immigrants only to later go back and let them free in Chinatown to make sure they didn’t end up sold basically as slaves. In probably the most moving scene, Daniel holds his daughter in his arms screaming because he thinks she is shot only to realize she has no damage done to her. This was because the argument in the gun shop resulted in the daughter unknowingly buying blanks for the ammunition after her father was taken out and the owner refused to refund her money. Other events that ended up effecting multiple characters like the molesting scene also change a huge course of events because if it weren’t for Officer Hanson (Ryan Phillippe) requesting an assignment change due to his partner, Cameron (Terrance Howard) would most likely be shot and killed by the LAPD, his wife would have never been saved from the overturned car, and Peter wouldn’t have gotten shot and killed over a misunderstanding. All these connections and outcomes were the result of small actions and displays how meaningful everything in life even if we choose to ignore or take for granted.

The film is a direct response to the society we live in today. The Black Image in the White Mind by Robert M. Entman and Andrew Rojecki had a interview with a civilian and President Clinton where the President was told, “There are a lot of prejudiced people out there that still remain… And I think it has been ironed out in our generation.”(P. 1) This is exhibited with this film because of the underlying themes and examples shown with the plots and characters. Society looks at the issues of stereotypes and racism in this country and think it is a thing of the past. People fail to recognize that the world, and especially our country has serious problems with racism and how we perceive and treat others of the same and more so for different races and cultures. In light of the situation of the misconception of how our society thinks we have the problem behind us, at the end of the film there is light to the situation. Jean finally realizes who her real friends are when she falls down the stairs and her best friend was too busy getting a massage to take her to the hospital and get her ankle checked out, and the only one there for her was the housekeeper. In a key scene she tells the housekeeper that she is the only friend she really has. This broke through her anger and perceptions of who the housekeeper is and saw her for the caring human that she was. This main scene exemplified what it means to really know someone and having true feelings come out in a time of crisis.

Another underlying theme that runs throughout the movie is how the judicial system is corrupted by the powerful white men of this country. This is shown multiple times with Rick, the District Attorney. After his car was stolen he immediately went to his public relations people and wanted something done to make sure he didn’t lose the African American vote, he planned on pinning a metal a black man to show he didn’t take that hijacking as a racial act, but more of a single individual. This theme grows deeper when Graham is pressured into setting up the cop that murdered the other cop in order to clear his brother from the 3-Strike law. They use the system to withhold and cover up evidence while bribing a detective into saving his brother. They make a bad man seem like a hero, and the bribe turned out to be for nothing since Graham’s brother was gunned down by a off-duty cop anyways. A Larry Gross article “Out of the Mainstream” stated, “the manner of that representation will itself reflect the biases and interests of those elites who define the public agenda.”(P. 63) This was exhibited with the District Attorney having his upcoming voters in mind when he covered up a murder while saving face. It just shows the separate agenda the powers in our country have and how they use there power to manipulate the public. This is just another of the extensive topics that are touched on with the film.

Overall, the film “Crash” was excellent. The way the film was written, incorporating all the characters into one another’s lives was captivating and the message that got across was bold and true. This is truly a film that every American should watch and take not of. It was interesting to see how the story used so many scenarios to get different points across and involve so many characters. This film captures the message that our society is not over racism and stereotyping by any means at all, but when we are put in special situations, we are all human and race is thrown out the window. The acting was excellent like everything about this movie. It is one of my favorites and would recommend it to anyone.
“You think you know who you are. You have no idea.”

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