Crash begins as Detective Graham (Don Cheadle) and his partner Ria (Jennifer Esposito) sit in the back of a police car after they've been in an accident. "It's the sense of touch. In any real city, you walk, you know? You brush past people, people bump into you. In L.A., nobody touches you," Graham says to Ria. "We're always behind this metal and glass. I think we miss that touch so much, that we crash into each other, just so we can feel something." I may as well get it out of the way at the beginning of this review. Crash is about racism. Not just racism between Whites and Blacks, but between Blacks and Blacks, Blacks and Hispanics, Hispanics and Asians, Asians and Arabs, etc…
Crash is Paul Haggis' debut as a director. He penned last year's widely successful film, Million Dollar Baby, and I think that this film could benefit from something that made that film work so well: Clint Eastwood's trademark subtlety. That's not to say that Crash is not successful in what it is trying to convey. It is, in fact it is very successful. However, Haggis must have more faith in his audience to comprehend the message. We get it. Racism is bad, and it is everywhere. Anger is everywhere. Sandra Bullock's character, the wife of a wealthy attorney, says that she wakes up every morning and feels angry. She doesn't know why, she says. This anger is at the root of the racism that Haggis has written about and it is tearing American society apart.
It is clear that Haggis knows how to elicit strong performances from his actors. In particularly strong form is Thandie Newton as the wife of a television director who is openly molested by a police officer (Matt Dillon). Michael Pena, as a hardworking locksmith and caring father is also astonishing during his limited amount of screen time. But the true find for me is most definitely Terrance Howard as a television director who struggles with his black identity and is confronted by these issues from all angles, until he is finally brought to confused tears.
While I don't feel Haggis' story works for the entire 113 minutes I do feel that when it works it is actually quite powerful. He has written a very strong film, and should be encouraged to keep writing smart and edgy material. With strong performances and an unquestionably important subject, Crash is undoubtedly one of the year's best films.
Additional DVD Features:
-Audio commentary by director/co-writer Paul Haggis, actor Don Cheadle and 'Bobby Moresco'
-DVD introduction by director Paul Haggis
-"Crash Behind The Scenes" – featurette