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Crash (2005)

Crash instills its audience with proclaimed enlightenment beneath the deception of its compulsively watchable aesthetic. Paul Haggis' film is nothing if not well intended, but that fact only further solidifies the film as perhaps the most misguided socially aware film to hit theaters since the dawn of the new millennium. L.A. serves as the cultural stand-in for this hyperlink drama that focuses on racism and prejudice in this modern world. A multitude of characters from different backgrounds act as Haggis' puppets in a show that highlights, bolds, and emphasizes with an exclamation point the presence of these behaviors and their destructive ways, which would be all well and good were it not for a keen feeling of contrivance running throughout the proceedings. Amidst attempts at wrenching drama caused by these blinding forces throughout the film's interwoven plot lines, Crash hopes to illuminate enough so as to find some better good within humanity and society.

With its multitude of characters, Crash spreads the racism cards all around, looking at black prejudice against whites, whites against blacks, racial and religious discrimination, and everything of similar ilk. Quickly, the film's structure becomes fairly obvious: all these individuals have both good and bad sides, and are both victims and perpetrators of racism. The film strays, however, by refusing to take things to the next level, instead shifting into overdrive its intended appeal for the tear ducts. The film's parable-like structure is betrayed by a conclusion that refuses to charge the audience with the crushing weight of the issues being observed (instead opting for a ridiculously upbeat and morally inappropriate closer), thus demoting their importance in the name of feel-good schmaltz (to Steven Spielberg: for War of the Worlds' final five minutes, you are forgiven), and as a commentary on real-world racism, the film is too tidy and fantastical in nature to be genuinely representative. In the end, instead of commenting about racial discriminations or distinctions in a meaningful manner, the film puts all the cards on the table and throws its hands up in an act of confusion, as if that's the answer.

Few of Crash's individual moments are as troubling as the entire whole. In fact, the film - which features a number of very good performances (sadly used to such shaky ends) - starts off well enough. A meditative opening credits sequence uses a montage of out-of-focus, nighttime highway shots to emphasize a blurring of societal expectations. The low, pulsing soundtrack behind these images could be described as the collective heartbeat of the human race. If only Haggis were able to probe these thoughts and feelings and relay what he finds to the audience with any kind of subtlety or craft. Rather, as soon as the film opens its mouth, any potential quickly begins to drain away. Don Cheadle's policeman Graham, having just been involved in a minor car accident, explains the meaning of the film's title in a dunderhead monologue: “I think we miss that touch so much, that we crash into each other, just so we can feel something.” Like a good joke, a great metaphor is rendered worthless if you explain it outright.

The realities of the world are similarly exaggerated and simplified for the sake of the assumedly oblivious audience. The silent malice of racism and prejudice are naively converted into explanatory social lessons (before hijacking an SUV, Ludacris and his partner pontificate about prejudice against blacks, as if hosting an academic lecture on the topic) that prove to be not only condescending, but dangerous in the extremity of their representations, which fail to acknowledge the more subtle and common ways in which these forces go to work in the world. Haggis' efforts at shaping society are admirable but must be recognized for their shortsightedness and misrepresentation, as well as the genuinely irresponsible pandering the film does to the very same audience it should be charging with the grave importance of these matters. Were the film less intent upon unnecessarily placating the viewer, the immediacy of its cause might register as more than fodder for an undercooked soap opera.

Although I don't agree with everything you say here, I understand your points clearly and I think you have a very well thought out review.

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