Wednesday, April 9, 2008

CRASH:Cracks in the Melting Pot

Well i had reviewed 2005 Best Picture Oscar Winning Movie CRASH some 2 years back... Just when i saw it after all the oscar buzz.


Just yesterday night I watched the movie Crash. Yes, the same movie which won Best Picture Academy Award this year. And to be frank it won deservedly. Especially when Hollywood has had its share of going through a tough time & through what they say “most maverick year in movie-making” ever. Let’s see how it does.

Crash, set in contemporary USA, is a story of people from different ethnic & economic backgrounds intertwined in such a way that all of them have to wage battles against the inner demons of prejudices & occasional pangs of guilt.


The movie starts off with an investigation about a crash by black Officer Graham[DON CHEADLE]. Then the movie goes back to a day before & the ‘real’ story starts. The first incident is when Los Angeles District Attorney Rick [Brendan Fraser] & wife Jean
[Sandra Bullock] are carjacked by two petty black goons Anthony [Rapper Chris “Ludacris” Bridges] & Peter. Later we come to know while Anthony is extremely paranoid about whites’ anti-black sentiments, Peter is nonchalant about it.
The incident forces opportunisic Rick to further his ambitions, & adds fuel to Jean’s already fuming racist fires. She doubts Daniel the Hispanic locksmith & insists that locks be changed next morning & calls him “a gang-banger just out of prison”,
not to forget her apathy towards her Hispanic maid Maria. Daniel, the Hispanic locksmith, is actually a devoted family man who dotes on his daughter & has just moved to new house after their window was shot(probably in a racist attack).
Synchronously, a Persian grocery shop-owner Farhad has a spat with a gun shopkeeper when latter takes a dig at Farhad’s inability to speak smooth English & calls him ‘Osama’. The real motive behind Farhad’s purchasing gun is his family’s safety after his wife was attacked in what could be a possibly racist attack.
Then, Cameron [Terence Howard], a studio producer along with his wife Christine [Thandie Newton] are stopped by ‘eventually-racist’ cop Officer Ryan. Christine is sexually harassed by Ryan & is hurt more when she finds that her husband doesn’t protest the indecent act.Ryan’s partner Officer Hanson [Ryan Phillipe] is disgusted by his partner’s deed &
requests the superiors to change this, only to find that racism is more unabashed at top than he could imagine.
The mishap gradually starts taking toll on Cameron & Christine's relationship. Officer Ryan is contemptuous towards blacks as he holds them guilty of ruining his father’s business & life. To make matters worse, he lets go with racist remarks against a black insurance executive. In parallel, we have honest, unbiased Officer Graham who is persuaded by fellow Officer Flanagan to drop the case against a possibly corrupt cop who is black. Flanagan does so by talking about affirmative action to blacks as evident through their dialogue: “you're the closest to all of this; you tell us what needs to be done!” Meanwhile Farhad’s shop is mobbed by racists & he holds Daniel responsible. (While Daniel had suggested that doors be
changed not just lock) He takes the gun & by mistake shoots Daniel’s daughter. At first everybody at the scene is devastated, only to find later that gun was loaded with blanks not bullets (a thought conceived by his daughter Dory to pre-empt
any mishap) Anthony & Peter try to carjack, this time Cameron, but Cameron overcomes his “impotence” to fight off these goons. While he encounters Officer Hanson again who saves him from a very-possible shoot out by cops. (with an obvious thought of redemption for his mistake of turning-other-cheek act of Ofc. Ryan)

In a Dramatic development Ryan than saves life of Christine, the very black woman that he fondled, who almost is near death after her car turns over & gasoline catches fire. Peter who ran away from the site of carjacking is killed inadvertently by Officer Hanson, who picks him up in the valley hours after their failed carjacking and mistakenly shoots him after assuming he is drawing a gun, when in reality he was reaching into his pocket to show the cop a statuette of St. Christopher. At the end of the film, following an accident in her home, Jean realizes that the person who is nicest and most helpful to her is Maria, her Hispanic maid. Not her upper-crust friend of 10 years like Catherine who was “busy taking a massage”.


Poignant dramas commenting upon social mindsets have always been Academy’s
‘Brokeback’ lost because probably giving this award to a story of unconventional love would have been too far a bold step in the wake of growing rage against these minority-by-sexual-orientation. But the powerful movie did deserve an award & Ang Lee was luckier. Geo-political subjects as in Munich, Syriana & Good night & good Luck were not essentially American thus may have lost out.What sets Crash apart is the way the story blooms gradually only giving it different hues [no pun intended] every half an hour or so. Even had it been a story not dealing with racism, the way
the characters’ lives have collided is arresting enough to make it a gem. All the lead characters when meet for first time develop sense of animus which as time would have it evaporates & leaves a bond of relationship. Movie rarely gets predictable & I think that is the USP of the movie. And yes, not to forget some sporadic
comic scenes dotted throughout the movie. Like when Cameron & Anthony fight over whose car it Or when Farhad shoots Daniel’s daughter leaving everyone including himself devastated, only to find later that he unknowingly shot blanks not bullets. Or repartee of Anthony & Peter over society’s perception of blacks.
These various acts of bathos & black humor provide much needed relief in an otherwise tense movie.

America has often been called ‘The Melting Pot’ as men & women of different races & color have had crossed Atlantic ocean to realize their much-touted ‘The Great American Dream’. But with passage of time & esp post-9/11, there have been
increasingly visible cracks in the melting pot.


The characters may look stereotyped, but throughout the movie this is challenged. Officer Ryan is a white bigot at first who saves the very lady he humiliated because she was black. Cameron, whose submission towards law & order which
borders on cowardice irritates his wife, later in the movie, lets his devil come out & takes law in his hands. Officer Hanson who is more compassionate towards blacks than any other character in the movie inadvertently kills a black man. Another significant change is visible in Sandra’s viewpoint. But her husband Rick’s stance towards racism & affirmative action is very ambiguous akin to a typical wily politico.In all, the movie very well touches the issues it intends to & does not end in happy. But what is most impressive is that every audience when leaves the theater is provoked to think his or her own prejudices towards people of different races they encounter. The movie leaves you challenge your established
thoughts about racism, there’s no doubt about it.

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