CRASH by Paul Haggis

For reasons I cannot comprehend, I have fallen in love with the feeling of wandering by myself in the city late at night, when the streets are almost empty, and all the shops are closed. In the distance, Northbridge, also the place where the tiny Chinatown is situated, comes alive with its colourful pubs and their patrons. The newsstand remain opened, but empty without customers, a place for me to buy the latest issues of Inside Film (a magazine for filmmakers), Empire (a film magazine) and Electronic Gaming Monthly (video game magazine).

Around me, there are many stories happening to people I do not know, but whose lives will intertwine with mine for a few seconds due to coincidence. For example, the cashiers at the newsstand who are bored due to its lack of customers at such an hour, and have nobody but each other as company, and a welcoming sight of a late-night customer like me. What are their lives like? What is going on with them?

Leaving the shop, I sidestepped away from a few patrons who had drank a wee bit too much. What's their story? What is going on with them? The train station is still in operating hours, but only a few people are sitting at the benches, waiting for the late trains, why are they there at such an hour? Making my way towards the Picadilly Theater, a place which shows older films at half-price, I walked past a homeless old woman lying asleep on Ronald McDonald's lap, she probably has a story too, along with the number of people who chose to watch 'Crash' that night with me.

There are tons and tons of stories happening to the strangers around you, and sometimes, these stories tend to intersect with your life. That's what Crash is like. There are many substories happening to the many characters in the movie, all happening in the span of two nights, showing the undercurrents of racism that occur in everyday American life. A Persian shopkeeper (Shaun Toub) buying a handgun to prevent vandalism, a shamed black TV producer (Terrence Howard) and his wife (Thandie Newton), the district attorney (Brendan Fraser) and his perpetually unhappy uptight wife (Sandra Bullock), a black internal affairs officer (Don Cheadle) and his Latina girlfriend/partner (Jennifer Esposito), two black carjackers angry with racial discrimination (Ludacris and Larenz Tate), a Mexican locksmith (Michael Pena) who was insulted for looking like an ex-convict, but was in fact a gentle family man, two cop partners, one jaded and abusive (Matt Dillon), the other young and idealistic (Ryan Phillipe).

They are all characters with their own backgrounds and different issues to deal with, but throughout the film, some of their substories will intertwine briefly one way or the other. There are no good or bad guys in the film as each and everyone of the characters are just like normal humans who are capable of good, yet occasionally making some ugly mistakes. Matt Dillon's performance is powerful. Early in the film, viewers will look at his character in disgust because of the things he did, yet as the film progresses, one can see the reasons for his anger and almost feel sorry for him, and then, in one of the climatic scenes, he will perform an improbably heroic deed that will completely change the viewers' opinions about him. And then, some of the characters who seemed like the 'good guys' throughout the film will be forced by circumstances to a commit some grievous errors that are almost unforgivable.

I can't reveal too much on the substories in the film, it is better to watch it yourself. It has strong performances from the entire ensemble cast(yes, even from Sandra Bullock, who had appeared in too many stupid comedies lately... Miss Congeniality 2, anybody?), it has some unexpected quietly moving scenes, and with characters that you will care for if you are into this kind of movies. I know this sounds cliched, but after all the explosions I have endured from the summer blockbusters, this is a nice breath of fresh air. (even though the movie was released before the summer blockbusters)

One of the finest movies of the year for me.

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