It's hard to describe Crash without it sounding earnest. But while this provocative drama tackles racism, class and looking beyond appearances, it's anything but worthy or dull. Following several lives as they, yes, crash together during one day in LA, it's fuelled by powerhouse performances from an outstanding cast. Sandra Bullock is startling as a bitchy housewife, Don Cheadle brings beaten-down grace to the role of a weary detective and, as a racist cop, Matt Dillon's steely presence holds everything together.
Some critics have criticised Crash for its reliance on coincidence. Which, given it's a deliberately structured modern parable, is a bit like damning War Of The Worlds for having aliens. Writer/director Paul Haggis (who scripted Clint Eastwood's Oscar-winner Million Dollar Baby) sets out to address difficult issues: why middle-class whites are afraid of working-class blacks, why being racist doesn't necessarily mean being inhuman, and how politics confuses the truth ("What are you, the ****ing defender of all things white?" yells William Fichtner's scheming internal affairs officer at Cheadle).
"FEW FILMS ARE AS DARING"
It perhaps isn't as accomplished as Magnolia (a great film, which revels in its absurdity) or Short Cuts (another LA story dominated by a twisted cop). But Crash's problems (a self-important score and overwrought finale) pale next to its emotional impact. Few films feature scenes as powerful as the contrasting car clashes between Dillon and Thandie Newton (both moments heart-in-mouth horrifying in different ways ). Few films are as daring. Few films this year are as deserving of your attention.