Note: This review of "Crash" is spoiler-free.
This will probably be one of (comparitively) the shortest reviews I've ever written for this blog, a fact which I'm hoping doesn't delight too many of my readers. Upon seeing "Crash" I came to the conclusion about twenty-minutes in that this is not a film that can really be properly "reviewed" in the style I generally employ in this medium (and is generally employed by some 98% of print film critics.) It's the sort of film which is so densely-contructed and so much "about" it's own storytelling architecture that it lends itself far better to the process of "analysis" by and for those who've already seen it than to the process of "review" by those who've seen it for those who may wish to.
It's really even impossible to describe ANY real details of the plot or the characters occupying it, because writer/director Paul Haggis has here constructed a story that is COMPRISED of a plot instead of being driven by one: Every character is defined by their interactions with every other character, and every plot leads into every other plot, and thus one cannot really say ANY one thing without spoiling another thing and eventually everything. Getting the picture?
It'll have to suffice to say that this is another in the quirky cinema subgenre of "interlocking-story" films. The best of these, (in my opinion, of course) is Paul Thomas Anderson's "Magnolia," while the most overpraised is Robert Altman's "Short Cuts," (which is not the same as saying it's a BAD film, merely that Altman is probably the most overpraised filmmaker currently working and thus his films often wind up as the most overpraised of their respective genres.) The setting is Los Angeles, the time-period is two days around Christmastime, and the overrarching theme is race. The characters are actors, politicians, cops, houseworkers and blue-collar joes; their races are white, black, latino, asian and middle-eastern; their racial-outlooks run the gamut from false-colorblindness to "racially conscious" to outright racism.
I realize thats VERY little to "go on" if you're reading this to decide whether or not you wish to see the movie. Let me bottom-line it: You should go see it; it's a very, very good film.
Now here's the unfortunate part: Very, very good though it may be, the film very briefly takes a giant leap forward and become great. It becomes so great, in fact, that at the moment greatness occured I was ready, willing and of sound mind to declare "Crash" the instant runaway frontrunner for the title of year's best film. But then, shortly after, the greatness is not only snatched away but actually voided from existance by the same plot machinations that created it, and the film slumps back to a respectable but never the less smaller stature... in abandoning greatness, it cannot merely retreat back to "very, very good" and instead settles as "so close to great it HURTS."
The brief jump to "great" occurs in single a sequence, (I will not tell you whom it involves, when it occurs, or what takes place,) which, when I realized what was about to (and did) play out, caused my hand to literally fly to my mouth in shock and amazement, followed immediately by soaring admiration for the sheer GUTS of the filmmaker. The shock, amazement and admiration were then multiplied exponentially by the scene's "resolution," which is the precise moment that "Crash" makes the big leap into the upper-atmosphere where only the Film Immortals are allowed to go.
But then, only a few scenes later, a new peice of plot is revealed that not only negates and obliterates the scene that shot the film to greatness (and, thus also negates the greatness itself), but makes it clear that this was the direction of the film all along (as opposed to a strikingly bad post-production alteration.) Thus, "Crash" becomes not merely a very-good film that was almost great, but instead a very-good film that masqueraded as great for a short time. It's a foul, cheap cheat that actually manages to injure the film-that-is by offering a glimpse of the film-that-could-have-been.
You'll see what I mean, (and I'm pretty damn sure A LOT of you will disagree with me about the Big Flaw,) when you see the film. Which, despite my palpable dissapointment, I still do strongly reccomend that you do as soon as you can.
FINAL RATING: 8/10