I've wanted to see Crash for some time now, even before it won best picture (beating out Brokeback Mountain in 2006). It was supposedly a great movie, one of those "At least see it once" type of films. My friend Colin gave it a 7 out 10, pretty good, since Colin seems to be a pretty strict movie rater (being a movie maker himself). So when I finally set up my Blockbuster Online account set up, I put Crash as my first choice.
Here is where the background story ends and the review begins.
Crash is the story of our times, the story of race, prejudice, and hatred, a story filled with distrust and suspicion. There are many characters, separated by distance, age, and race, who "crash" into each other, often in violent ways. Their worlds collapse around them as they face the reality of their ideas and their actions. What is probably most intriguing, and appropriate, is that no one race is strictly racist. Even then, it is not each race that is racist, but rather individuals that make the racial prejudices.
But the story is not simply one of race. It is one of the human condition. Spoiled men of many races use each other for their own gain, not realizing until its too late that if they had turned that energy towards something more important, say, their family, they would have saved not only their own life, but those who love them. Once again, here is another movie where the importance of family is shown as more important than personal gain. The petty racial and status-based prejudices the characters express in the movie are the enemy of the family. In every case of racial or social prejudice explored in the movie, a family is attacked. In one case, a husband and wife's encounter with two thugs (whom themselves are racist against white people, proud of their ghetto lives) exacerbates an already growing split between the spouses. In another, an angry Persian store owner takes vengeance on the man who he thinks robbed and destroyed his shop, nearly destroying the other man. All the linked stories follow like that, beautifully showing the horrors of racial prejudice, the evil that is intense hatred, and the destruction of society that ensues when we tear each other apart on such superficial grounds.
It is a very hard movie to watch, at least at the beginning. It is Hell.
It is easy to portray Hell, Chesterton pointed out many years ago. What's hard is to portray Heaven.
There is no portrayal of Heaven in this movie. Actually, the redemption out of Hell (which is so crucial in a movie portraying such Hell) is not as satisfying as one can hope. Some of the individuals realize what is wrong with their life, but not all of them act upon it. Sins are hard to overcome, that is true, but something more redemptive is needed in such a movie. There is also a lot of swearing and cussing in the film, not to mention the racial epitaphs. It is ugly.
I give the movie 3 stars (***) because, while being an excellent story and moving film, as well as a well made one, the need for some sort of redemption for the characters was too great to give it a higher rating.