A Crash into Reality

December 2, 2008


A Crash Into Reality

By Lauren Nguyen

New York Times

Published May 6, 2005

CRASH is a new  crime drama film that was introduced on May 6, 2005, that took its audience by surprise with its controversial content and message. This film, directed by Paul Haggis, monitors the lives of a group of people of different status in society and shows how their lives will all collide within a matter of three days. The characters that are portrayed range from people that live high profile lives to common people of the streets and all of them are connected; it strongly resembles the idea that everyone is separated by six degrees and the film shows how easily these people influence each other’s lives. CRASH also shows the dual nature of mankind-how everyone, regardless of ethnicity is good-hearted, but how social stereotypes leave them tainted.

This academy award winning film features a distinguished cast to portray the post 9/11 society of bigotry within California as it challenges modern day misconceptions about race. It also shows the convergence of several races-African American, white, Latino, Mexican, Chinese, Iranian- and the relationships and fears that many people have. The film itself has an underlying moral message of racial tolerance that the director, Paul Haggis, most likely shares, but does the film really deserve the hype it has received? Well, when taking the storyline into account, there are many good and controversial points that make for a successful film, but Haggis fails to subtly incorporate many thematic elements. These bluntly stated aspects of the film such as the “coincidental” connection that ties all of the strangers together fail to resonate well with me, but it does not hinder the overall message of the movie.


CRASH begins at a crime scene and in a cliché manner and at the end, it ultimately comes full circle, which answers many of the lingering questions posed in early scenes of the film, but it also leaves the audience with even more questions- such questions like, “what happens to the good cop-does he get caught?” Questions like these may not enhance the message of the film or enhance it, but it leaves audience members like myself with bantering thoughts. The plot is filled with emotions at every scene and never leaves the audience at a stagnant point. The constant action and development of characters builds upon the several messages encompassed in the film.

Overall, I definitely have to say that I enjoyed the movie, but I need to admit that I was initially intrigued to watch it due to the star-studded cast. The cast, which includes high ranked actors like Matt Dillon, Don Cheadle, Terrance Howard, Thandie Newton and Sandra Bullock acted alongside some fresh faces in the acting industry which included the well-known Chris Bridges (infamous as the rap artist, aka Ludacris) and Michael Pena.  All of the actors enhanced the final product and had it not been for such great acting, I do not think the film would have been as great. It’s sad to say that the characters added more interest for me to watch the film. However, let’s not forget how wonderful and authentic the acting in the movie was. Sandra Bullock was amazing in her role as an ignorant wife. But the star of CRASH would have to be Chris Bridges, whose acting debut was in this film. For a first time actor, his emotions were real and he outshined many of the other high profiled actors. I applaude the director’s selection of cast, as it definitely enhanced the movie.

The whole good cop versus bad cop and black versus white issue is very prevalent in a lot of movies out there, so this is where the film may have lost its novelty. But maybe this is what Paul Haggis wanted? There needs to be a reason behind the movie’s blunt nature and perhaps it deals with Haggis’ urge to directly get the message out the audience. Overall, his method works well and he is able to get his underlying messages across. He is able to get his message across that society needs to rid itself of the racial stereotypes that have sustained over the years and through the aggressive nature of the movie, he is successful.

So back to the original question: Does CRASH deserve the recent hype and praise it has received? The simple answer is yes. It may be a difficult movie for the audience to like because it is so straightforward, but that’s the beauty of it- Paul Haggis wanted to push the message out there and it creates an engaging film.

Rating: Thumbs Up


A Crashing Success!

December 4, 2008

By Lauren Nguyen

Published May 7, 2005

(caution: this review may contain spoilers!)

Free on a Friday night? If not, make time for the spectacular new release of CRASH, a crime drama that will engage you in every scene, every word,  and every gesture. It is a must see movie that is truly and inspiration to change for the better as it shows the terrible faults of society. It is one of the finer film of this year that certainly deserves a nomination for an Academy award.

CRASH deals with the lives of several individuals who are from all different backgrounds and gives the audience a deeper sense into the racial divides of society. Within the course of three days, this film documents how the daily lives of complete strangers can simply “CRASH” into each one another. As you watch the film, you will be enthralled with the utter honesty that is explored- Paul Haggis, the director, does not sugarcoat any aspect of the film, rather he gives you the raw facts and lets the audience make up its own opinions. We examine and are able to understand more how racial stereotypes are formed and the urgent need to find a solution. All different ethnicities are represented in the film, from African Americans, whites, Iranians, Latino and Mexican, which gives the plot all the more complexity. Trust me, there are many twists and turns of the plot that will keep you from falling asleep in your chair. This film was very satisfying and though movie tickets are soaring these days, the ten dollars or so spent on watching the film is very worthwhile.

I applaud this movie not only for the significant influence it had on my own perspectives, but also for the magnificent cast that portrayed such heart-felt and realistic roles. The casting director of this film certainly did his job well because the characters were executed with perfection. The cast included actors and actresses such as Thandie Newton, Sandra Bullock, Matt Dillon, Terrence Howard, and the undiscovered actor who is more famously known for his music, Chris Bridges. Those are only a few of the cast members that truly engaged the audience with their raw emotional appeal which made the film a work of art. Thandie Newton, cast as a director’s wife, really explored her barriers as an actress.  She was my favorite actress out of the sea of renown actors, but they all performed very well. All of the emotions the actors displayed really made the scenes come to life and made the film all the more realistic.

So is CRASH a go see? It’s much more that that- it’s a MUST SEE! CRASH is a movie that will truly change the way one views society and it provides inspiration to all who see it.

Rating: Thumbs Up!


December 3, 2008


By Lauren Nguyenchristian_science_monitor

The Christian Science Monitor

Published May 4, 2005

(caution: this review may contain spoilers)

There has been recent buzz about the new crime drama film CRASH, which has even been given some Oscar nods as well. This movie delves deep into the urban streets and suburbs of modern day Los Angeles to reveal the varied lives of individuals of different racial backgrounds, cultures, and ages. The director, Paul Haggis, examines racial stereotypes and parallels this with action-packed drama; he also manages to intertwine the lives of all of the characters. The film actually begins at the same scene that is at the end, a technique that relates the entire story together.

It is evident after watching the film that Haggis implemented many of his own thoughts into the movie and probably  created such a film to promote a change in the social climate.There is an underlining moral message to the film: treat others with respect and have tolerance towards people of all kinds, regardless of race. Haggis promotes this moral theme throughout the film and constantly touches upon the the issue of race. The storyline of the film follows the daily lives of several people. It involves police officers, attorneys, and people of both blue and white collared professions. The inclusion of all of these people gives the movie a universal appeal; people of all kinds can relate in some way.

This film, rated R, has many racy and controversial scenes which are geared towards a more mature audience. The brief sex scenes are not appropriate for young children or minors and it also features weapons and criminal activity that need to be monitored. Despite the few seconds of nudity, there are no scenes of graphic violence or drug use. Haggis manages to portray his moral message, but couldn’t he have done it without the constant use of derogatory and foul language? Parents, please be cautioned: the film contains much more foul language than a child should be exposed to. Just about every other sentence blurted out of a character’s mouth has some sort of derogatory connotation.

One factor that had a great impact on the overall film was the cinematography, which heightened its authenticity.  There was good atmosphere, which made the film seem more raw, like a docudrama. Paul Haggis chose he perfect locations to shoot the scenes because nothing was exaggerated and the locations were very common, which could relate more to the audience, conveying that incidences in the movie occur everywhere and anywhere.

In contrast to the good cinematography is the flow of the plot, which sometimes threw me off track and I’m sure many other audience members as well. At times, I found myself questioning, “What happened to that other character?” The large gaps  between the different lives being examined led me to a state of confusion and I couldn’t keep track amongst the web of stories. The vast amount of characters and the individual stories being told all at once may be a little too much to handle at once. Tip for watching this movie: Pay attention! For me, I like movies to be more straightforward, but CRASH really made me think.

The cast for the film, which included renown actors such as Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, and Matt Dillon, to name a few, definitely added extra star appeal. Not only were these actors casted perfectly for their roles, but they also provided the film with genuine emotion and this really engaged the audience. Bullock was cast as a white woman who was car-jacked at gunpoint and is forced to question the motives of people of different ethnicities. She is characterized as being aggressive and unforgiving, a role which she dominates.  She is tormented by the thought that somebody may be after her and after the car-jacking incident, she is in constant need of protection, but she drives everyone away from her because of her controlling and racist nature. The one bad aspect that I did not like about the characterization was that all of the individuals had a complete turnaround at the end of the film. It’s a bit obvious, but it was inevitable after all of the events that occurred that it would happen. All of the casted actors and actresses fit perfectly into the respective role they portrayed.

So is this the film of the year? Well, some can say so due to the blunt messages and controversial content, but I feel that there have been many similar films in the past and CRASH fits into their category. It is a good movie to watch if you have a free night off, but don’t go out of your way to see this film. Other than the good selection of cast members and cinematography, everything else seems to be borrowed from past movies, but just taken to the extreme.

Rating: One thumb up, one thumb down