Cast your mind back to the 2005 Oscars… Are you there yet? It was a year Brokeback Mountain had won over audiences and critics alike and was sweeping up at every award show on the planet.
On the night of the Oscars it seemed a shoe in for Best Picture and after winning three awards you could almost see Ang Lee getting ready to take the stage as the nominations were being read out. Nobody could have expected what was to happen next. Crash, the little independent movie that had made a few waves that awards season, mostly for writing, won the biggest prize of the night.
I had only ever seen Crash once before when it was released on DVD and had to admit, at the time, wasn’t really blown away and got quite indignant it had beat Brokeback Mountain. So, as it makes its way to Blu-ray, I was glad to get the chance to watch it again with a more open mind.
Set in Los Angeles, a racial hotspot for many years now, it takes the issue of race and puts it under the strongest of microscopes, looking at the way people deal with the issue of race in an honest, if somewhat controversial light.
The main plot is split into nine shorter stories, with each character involved crossing paths with at least one of the others at some point, all of them dealing with the issue of race and the mindsets and stereotypes people have about them.
The characters span the spectrum of police officers, government officials, wives, daughters, brothers, TV producers, street gangs and blue collar workers, each dealing with the fact that race has a profound effect on their lives.
Although thought provoking and interesting as a topic generally, what makes this movie work so well is the quality of the writing and acting, which brings not only the script and characters to life, but doesn’t let you back away from the issues at hand. Instead, it rather forces you to sit up and take notice and makes you think about your own perceptions of racial issues.
The ensemble cast works together as a single unit, each word, movement and action impacting so profoundly onto the next you are swept away in the story. Casting-wise, Writer and director Paul Haggis made the brave decision of putting together a cast of people you wouldn’t normally associate with such dark subject matter, including placing Sandra Bullock, Matt Dillon and Ryan Phillippe in three of the most against the grain roles they could have possibly be put in.
He also took a chance on rapper Chris ‘Ludacris’ Brown who, with no pervious acting experience, stepped into his role with little effort and to wonderful success. His partnership on screen with Larenz Tate brings humour and heart to the more serious subject matter.
Crash is a well written, well acted, thought provoking drama that isn’t afraid to ask hard questions and provide little or no answers. It provides a snapshot of the society we live in today and doesn’t necessarily lend us the answers to figure out how we make things better, which makes for rather depressing more than uplifting viewing, but sometimes that is the way it has to be.
Did it deserve the Best Picture Oscar? Well, that is a matter of opinion, but it is a wonderful and throughly provoking film that should be essential viewing for all.
The grittiness of Crash ensures that the transfer to 1080p isn’t as sharp as it could be, but in many ways this takes nothing away from the film as it needs to be down and dirty, much like the city it is set in and the sharp 5.1 surround sound more than makes up for it.
Additional features include deleted scenes with optional commentary which, on viewing it, is made very clear as to why they didn’t make the final cut, Then there are two featurettes: LA The Other Main Character, which takes a nice look at Los Angeles, its history and importance to the story, and Unspoken, which looks at the unspoken issue of race that we all seem to deal with at one point or another. There’s also a making of entitled Behind The Metal And Glass, which has some nice interviews and titbits about the film’s development.
Crash is out now on Blu-ray and available from the Den Of Geek Store.