The stunning, must-see drama Crash is proof that words have not lost the ability to shock in our anesthetized society. I can’t remember the last time I have felt so galvanized, disturbed, and moved by full sentences, unadorned by gratuitous profanity, flying out of the mouths of screen characters as ordinary as you or me or the guy idling at the next traffic light on an average day in Los Angeles at Christmastime. Crash is about the collision of cars, the machinery on which L.A. is built. But it’s also about the collision of races, cultures, and classes — another kind of L.A. experience. White folks, black folks, Hispanics, and Asians — nobody gets by in this amazingly tough, at times unexpectedly funny, and always humane movie without getting dented. An assured directorial debut by Million Dollar Baby screenwriter Paul Haggis, who also produced, conceived the story, and wrote the script with Bobby Moresco, Crash suggests, convincingly, that violent contact — in word or on wheels — is the only way left to reach out and touch somebody.
The pileup begins almost immediately when two young black men (Larenz Tate and rapper?turned?fine actor Chris ”Ludacris” Bridges), walking in an upscale white enclave and talking about the perception of young black men in upscale white enclaves, efficiently carjack a Lincoln Navigator that happens to belong to the L.A. district attorney (Brendan Fraser) and his rich-bitch wife (Sandra Bullock). Bam!, that’s four people linked and unmasked, in all their ugliest prejudices and most shameful fears, by the fate of one SUV — a luxe safari truck that at first has nothing, and yet eventually everything, to do with the fate of another Navigator, owned by a rich black TV director (Terrence Howard) and his wife (Thandie Newton) and stopped for inspection by a racist white cop (Matt Dillon) and his partner (Ryan Phillippe).
How could so many lives smash into one another so quickly? How, for that matter, does the family of a Hispanic locksmith wind up linked, in danger and redemption, with that of a burgled Iranian shopkeeper? What do these strangers have to do with a black police detective (Don Cheadle) and his Latina partner and lover (Jennifer Esposito), who are investigating a homicide? Role for role, the acting is superb, and the cinematography is strong, with a stylistic emphasis on blur and confusion interrupted by knife-carved incidents of prejudice and consequence (aurally stitched by Mark Isham’s anxious electronic score). As Haggis’ taut vignettes reveal Crash’s bigger traffic pattern and the words rain down, there’s little to do but grip tight and prepare for major impact.
2006 Oscar Nominations: Best Picture; Best Supporting Actor (Matt Dillon); Best Director (Paul Haggis); Best Original Screenplay (Paul Haggis and Bobby Moresco); Best Film Editing; Best Original Song (”In the Deep”)