Crash Paul Haggis

Crash Paul Haggis
Though he's been dabbling in both television and film for 30 years, Canadian-born director Paul Haggis has taken his time stepping up for his major motion picture debut. Crash — not to be confused with the 1996 film by another Canadian director — is a clever and stylish drama that explores the ethics within a small group of people in Los Angeles. However, like P.T. Anderson's stunning epic Magnolia, there is no one major character but an impressive ensemble whose lives are inexplicably connected, which isn't completely revealed until the film's finale. Beginning with a minor car crash at the beginning of the movie, the film slowly unravels a series of racist attacks and crimes (carjacking, murder, vandalism) that link up to the corruptly portrayed LAPD and justice system. Each character deals with self-discovery and faces some tough decision in their little sub-plot, finding cathartic or tragic closure.

Haggis's ensemble cast is an impressive list on paper (Don Cheadle, Thandie Newton, Matt Dillon, Ryan Phillipe, Terrance Howard), but they also deliver strong and steadfast performances. Even the dramatically doubtful big names like Sandra Bullock and Ludacris pull their weight, with the only chink in the armour being the always-weak Brendan Fraser, who should stick to cave- and jungle-men, and avoid demanding roles like District Attorney. Despite its confusing and rather irrelevant title — two crashes do occur but hardly contribute to the moral fibre of the piece — Haggis has delivered a reflective and eye-opening picture that is wonderfully shot with off-kilter camera angles to give a truly powerful and visceral experience. (Maple)