Monday, 9 May 2011

Review of 'Crash'

'Crash,' a 2004 film directed by Paul Haggis, centres on racial tensions in Los Angeles. Characters from multiple races feature, with seemingly equal screen-time given to whites, Persians, African-Americans and Hispanics with a small focus on a Korean couple. The characters are drawn together by events that unfold over a mere twenty-four hour time period, with each one being guilty of, or indeed a victim of, racism. Racial preconceptions are examined, with them gradually being broken down and revealed as misconceptions.

The lack of awareness (one could argue ignorance) prevents the characters from seeing past skin colour, living conditions and material possessions. A well-off white woman (Sandra Bullock) flinches when she sees two black men in the street and with no valid reason accuses a Hispanic locksmith of being a gang member. The frustration of a white police officer (Matt Dillon) is intensified when he realises the health coordinator who he is talking to on the phone to get help for his sick father is named Shaniqua. And two black men, shown outwardly as crooks, who insist on not stealing from black people, hijack a car thought to be owned by a typically wealthy white person, before realising it is actually being driven by an Africa-American (Terence Dashon Howard).

As the film progresses, characters from different racial groups find themselves forced together and linked by occurring events, largely out of their control. A degree of realisation takes place, amongst all the characters, with Bullock's character, for instance, eventually realising that her Hispanic housekeeper is actually her only "real friend" as the film draws to a close. Dillon's police officer, portrayed largely as an overt racist, abuser of power and hot-head, is seen not only rescuing the light-skinned wife of Howard's character, who he had previously humiliated by performing an invasive body search for a simple traffic violation, from a burning car, but also caring for his ill father, perhaps explaining (albeit not excusing) his racist behaviour. We, as viewers, begin to understand the reasons WHY certain characters behave the way that they do, through the depiction of the ideological mindset, with the plot progressing and the characters developing enough to break down the prejudices that set up and define the film.

By incorporating a relatively diverse range of cultures into one setting, the subtle levels of racism can be explored, with the ramifications for the individual, along with the families portrayed. The film in no way will rid the world of racist behaviour, but I do not think it ever thought that it could. It does, however, begin to open a world up to people that they may never have seen before. Awareness is raised, and progress is made. It will not doubt leave the viewer with much to think about - with their own behaviour brought to the fore.

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