Crash | Teen Ink


December 14, 2008
By Pat Cullen BRONZE, Ipswich, Massachusetts
Pat Cullen BRONZE, Ipswich, Massachusetts
3 articles 0 photos 0 comments

The film Crash, directed by award-winning director Paul Haggis, takes place in modern day Los Angeles. The director's intention was to clearly depict some occurrences of modern day racism, and that he does. Paul Haggis and Crash dive into stereotypes, as well as exploring racial and social tensions of today. With one of the best casts ever to be put on screen, and outstanding screenplay, the film is an amazing work. Paul Haggis was originally intending for the film to not be a movie about race, but more a movie about fear and intolerance, originally written to a revolve around a car jacking he was victimized in. As we began to write more and more of the movie, the theme of communicating what racism is like today came into view. Overall, there is no doubt that this is a great movie, but the question stands as to how accurate the movie is. Bringing accuracy into question, you must also consider if this may indeed be an effective tool for studying history. Although the film may be a bit dramatic in depicting racism, it's not that far off. Events such as those probably do occur regularly in the city of Los Angeles. Therefore, this movie is useful in the study of history. By comparing and contrasting racism today to the old forms of racism found in immigration issues as well as slavery, one is able to better wrap one's mind around racism as a whole, and the sheer trepidation hideousness of it all.

The director, Paul Haggis, was intending for this film to depict fear and intolerance in the world, or the "fears and insecurities; the things that bother good people," as Paul Haggis put it in an interview with Charlie Rose. This later developed into striving for making a movie to more extensively portray racism. Haggis said that "Hollywood too often attacks race or these kinds of movies in very easy manners. There's the good white people who go down to help the poor black people down in the south, being tortured by the bad white people. But race isn't like that anymore." He goes on to to say that he wanted his film to show the racial fears of the modern people. Haggis wants people to notice the change racism has taken. People often know what racism was like during the time of slavery, and they know the severe events of racism happening more recently, but too often are the little, complicated happenings of modern day racism overlooked. It's important for people to realize that there's more aspects to racism than just the ones that made headlines. There's little things happening everyday and Crash renders these incidents beautifully.

Crash is an independent film that really has an "independent" storyline, different from the majority of other movies. Crash has a clear message, that is illustrated with near perfection, but it does so without any essential narrative. The storyline is just a serious of events that seem to all tie together in the end. All the different characters have some relationship or contact with all the other characters. In terms of organization, the movie simply begins with introducing the many characters as well as the racial stereotype they have and an event that has resulted from this. As the movie progresses, you see the characters start to work out their negative ideas and their racial situations. You also notice the numerous characters that, for the most part, are all linked together. There are too many main characters to list, but the ones that stuck out the most to me were the roles of Rick and Jean Cabot, Detective Graham Waters, Officers Tommy Hanson and John Ryan, Cameron and Christine Thayer, Daniel Ruiz and Farhad. These characters were played by the all-star cast of Brendan Fraser, Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Ryan Phillipe, Matt Dillon, Terrence Howard, Thandie Newton, Michael Peña, and Shaun Toub. There is no one climax of the movie, because every character, or group of characters has a climax of their own. If I was to pick my two favorites of all the different "climaxes," I would first select the scene when Farhad confronts Daniel and ends up "shooting" Daniel's daughter Elizabeth in the confusion. Luckily, it was only loaded with a blank casing. The other climax that really stood out to me was the car ride with Officer Tommy Hanson and Peter Waters. From what started as a minor argument, results in the shooting death of Peter as he reaches into a pocket to retrieve his identical figure of Saint Christopher. Tommy believed he was drawing a gun and fired one fatal shot into Peter. Although there was no clear narrative, or one essential plot, Crash executed it's choice of style with cinematic elegance.

As a film, Crash appeals to ones emotions more so than to their intellect, and does so with hardly any flaws. It's key strengths are found in the dialogue, cast, and the soundtrack. As the director, Haggis was very nervous when it came time to release Crash because of the intensity and bitterness of some of the dialogue. There is frequent language and continual racial remarks, but all it does is add to the feeling of the film and further stimulate your emotions. Also, by making such demeaning racial remarks throughout the film, people pay more attention. This aspect adds to both the emotional and intellectual appeal. The cast is one of the best Haggis could've put together. Terrence Howard and Thandie Newton compliment each other outstandingly. Their relationship alone could've made the movie complete. Michael Peña and Shaun Toub were also great. Their story by itself is Oscar-worthy and the magic cloak scene was absolutely breathtaking. It's by far one of the most emotional scenes one will see in a movie. Lastly, appealing to the emotions is the soundtrack. Bird York's "In The Deep" is perfect for the film. Her vocal skills are utilized superbly by adding this song to the soundtrack. As well as being emotional, it compliments the stereotypical, racial conflicts that are Crash. On the contrary, one may see the loosely defined plot as a weakness. You have to watch the movie a couple of times for everything to fall into place. Another weakness is the fact that as the viewer, the film does not provoke much thought at all. Instead of leaving room for the viewer to make their own inferences, Haggis simply instructs you what to believe. Everything in the movie is set in stone. There's no loose ends which are at times, a very important aspect of a movie.

Overall, one will find that Crash is an effective educational tool, very useful to the study of our history. This film fits in with the slavery that's been studied throughout the past units. It allows one to view the differences and similarities between modern and past racism. One will see that our country has never been that great in developing a general and overall acceptance of difference, and Crash emphasizes that racism wasn't cured by the abolishment of slavery. There is still ill racial mistreatment occurring on a regular basis throughout the world today. Other sources from this time period may have little focus on racism. They will talk about the segregation issues and racial discriminations of the 1900s but never before has 21st century racism been portrayed so vividly. By watching Crash, people are able to grasp the concept of racism that's been occurring in this nation since it was first formed. Although the film is almost nothing but positives, it may mislead viewers by thinking that racist ideas can just be erased in 36 hours. Most of the characters felt more accepting towards other races by the end of the film, but it's most certainly not that simple. It takes a lot for one racist to just suddenly accept the race they've been so stereotypical of for however long a period of time. In conclusion, there are so few weaknesses in the movie Crash that it should definitely be considered a trustworthy educational tool, but only for audiences mature enough to handle such content.

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