Crash - Best Film?

I watched Crash on DVD for the first time a few nights ago and what with it now being given this year's Oscar for Best Film I felt I just wanted to make some comments on it.

I found it to be the most disappointing thing I'd seen in ages. Lets get that in context though - I'm very good at rooting out anything I think just won't appeal to me so I just don't bother watching stuff like e.g. AvP or The Island or Elizabethtown or Mrs Henderson Presents... I'm not saying any of those are crap because I haven't seen them but I'd guess overwhelmingly that I wouldn't like them, so by extension I'm also guessing I enjoyed Crash far more than I would, say, AvP.

I found the direction to be competent if not spectacular and the acting on the whole was excellent (Matt Dillon gave possibly his best ever performance), it had attractive cinematography and nice editing, effective music etc, so what was wrong with it?

Basically, the script.

Firstly there was this smug air permeating the whole thing that the writer/director Paul Haggis thought he was telling us something we didn't already know - people hate each other. Well done Paul, give yourself a clap. However it was also the manner in which he tried to tell me that it was all just because of our prejudices about ethnicity - White hates Black who hates Latin American who hates Asian who hates Middle Eastern... blah blah blah.

When discussing this with the missus after the film, I pointed out that from my perspective (living in Swansea, Wales, UK, Europe), generally speaking: Europeans hate Americans, the British hate the French, the Welsh hate the English, Swansea residents hate Cardiff residents, my area of Swansea hate other areas of Swansea, in my area people on my road hate people from 'the estate', people in one part of my road hate their neighbours a few doors up... and it's sod all to do with racism or ethnicity - it could be a particular haircut or a piercing, people are just suspicious of what they don't know, that's all. We shouldn't be, and consciously we know we shouldn't be, but it's universal.

To then see Sandra Bullock in the 'making of' on the disc gushing about how she 'didn't care what part [she] took because this was an important story that had to be made' astounded me that these people really thought they'd done something that exposed this big truth that us mere mortals apparently weren't previously aware of... again, I thank you Mr Haggis for showing me the light. Maybe I shouldn't have been so astounded but I was genuinely surprised about the level of self importance involved over something so blindingly obvious.

Please Note, the following text contains some spoilers

I could have maybe handled the whole Racism theme as it went if it had been consistent and believably written, but there comes the second major thing that annoyed me about the film - the flipping around of just about every character's story arc. To begin with it's surprising and it appears we're going to get a couple of interesting plot devices to confound us. For example, at the beginning we see two black men discussing how racist all the white people are who look at them suspiciously and move away from them in the street, just before they pull some guns on a rich white couple and steal their 4x4 - all quite wittily done and you think, ok maybe this film really is going to surprise me and do something unexpected.

The next twist is also quite effective as it's a good 45 minutes after that first one. Near the beginning of the film we encounter Matt Dillon's racist white cop character pulling over a black man and then feeling up his wife in front of him with the implicit threat that if he says anything about it he'll be arrested. Ok, got that.

About an hour in then, there's been a crash and there's an overturned car leaking fuel with a fire burning nearby. Matt Dillon is the first cop on the scene... and guess who the trapped occupant of the overturned car is - yup, it's the woman that he felt up in the previous scene, only this time despite her protests he risks his life in order to save her, and pulls her free of the car just a second before it all explodes in a big Hollywood fireball. At that point it started to wake up my interest in the film again because the scene was well done and it was a break from all the forced in-your-face 'look how nasty and bigoted this person is being just because of someone's skin colour/accent/ethnicity' scenes that had preceded it.

Only it was just the start of everyone - and I do mean everyone - having their story arc switched in the most nauseating, contrived manner possible. The racist cop saved the woman he abused, the middle eastern shopkeeper previously abused for being an 'arab' tries to kill a black man, Sandra Bullock moans about her Mexican housekeeper then said housekeeper rescues her when she's fallen down the stairs, we find out that a good non-racist white cop does really have prejudices when he shoots a black hitchhiker because he incorrectly assumes he has a gun, the black gun-toting car-jacker becomes an unlikely hero when he saves a van full of Thai immigrants....

Good god it went on and on, I felt like I was being repeatedly bludgeoned over the head by it's 'message' and this actually caused the interesting anomaly that it became less and less effective with every blow it attempted to strike. Every scene became even more contrived than the last one until by the end I was totally resenting anything this film was trying to say.

A bit of a curve-ball reference here, but if anyone remembers Stuart Lee's Jesus from This Morning With Richard Not Judy and his smug finger-wagging catchphrase of 'Aaaaahhhhh!!' when he'd provoked someone into a particular response and then 'shown them the error of their ways'... I felt like this whole bloody film could have been written by that character, at every turn wagging his finger at me and berating me for being such a prejudiced and uneducated redneck with his smug 'Aaaaaaahhhhhh!!!!'

If the trite, cringeworthy opening quote from Don Cheadle's character, just as he's been involved in a minor car 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. 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."), was placed at the end of the film, I swear I would have screamed. I could write a whole extra treatise about why I feel like killing people when I read that quote, but I won't.

I think I've probably written enough now and I don't wish to bludgeon you with my point in the same way Crash tries to, suffice to say that when I woke up this morning and heard Crash was apparently 'Best Film' and that Chico was at number one... well if you have any empathy with what I've written above, you'll probably know exactly how I felt.

Last updated: 19/06/2018 21:07:50

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