Monday, August 28, 2006

Crash (2004)

CrashGiven its 'surprise' oscar win for 'Best Film' at the Academy Awards earlier this year, it's perhaps to be expected that Pathe should decide to 'double-dip' with this new '2 disk Ultimate Director's Edition' DVD release, such a short time after the original DVD was released. The good news for those who bought the original DVD is that there's little new been added to justify the 'Ultimate' tag and hence no reason to spend more money on something already purchased. And for those who didn't get the original DVD release of this excellent film there's now a choice: the original can still be purchased for about £6 less than this new 'ultimate' edition, representing excellent value for money.

The basic plot of Crash has been well publicised by now. Nine separate stories challenging our perceptions of racial prejudice are cleverly woven together to make for a 'story' that leads the viewer down one blind alley after another, to the point that even when you're sat ready and waiting for the next twist and think you have things figured out, the co-writer/director Paul Haggis will take you in a different direction from the one you're expecting. This is the sort of 'food for the brain' that has provided, and will continue to provide, long water-cooler discussions all around the world. It's a film designed to stimulate debate and have you thinking about its message for days after you've seen it. That can only be a good thing!

The stellar cast, which includes Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle (also functioning as producer), Matt Dillon, Brendan Fraser, Thandie Newton and Ryan Phillippe are not the main attraction here - it's the writing and Los Angeles itself that are the real stars of the movie. It's not hard to see why the clever marketing campaign undertaken by its makers, who sent the DVD to all the American Academy voters who would otherwise have not seen it, helped the film 'steal' the 'Best Film' award from the more critically favoured, and arguably more controversial, Brokeback Mountain.

It's interesting to see that the critical ratings (as evidenced by seem to be lower than those from the general public (as evidenced by, and this discrepancy is probably best explained by the fact that this doesn't really feel like a 'film' as such. It feels more like a superior TV drama mini-series that's been edited down into a 'made for TV film', a fact confirmed by the revelation on the extra's that it only became a film when HBO deemed it too controversial to be made as a regular series!

The film seems to have as many detractors as admirers, with many dismissing it as too gimmicky by half. Certainly the film feels a little too clever for its own good at times - the lines delivered and the contrived circumstances that bring some of the stories together are just a little TOO perfect to reflect real life. For this viewer, there are times when the film feels a little smug and self-satisfied, an impression not contradicted by the director's commentary and extra's that accompany this release. But none of that should distract from the important message about prejudice that this film so intelligently conveys, or the portrayal of its main character Los Angeles, that has seldom been better portrayed on film.

The DVD itself doesn't live up to the 'ultimate' hype. The Directors Introduction is the same 10-second 'Hi. I hope you like the film' snippet featured on the original 'vanilla' release. The 'Director's Cut' of the film itself allegedly adds an extra four minutes to the original 103 minute running time, but you'd have to be a real anorak who's overly familiar with the original theatrical release to notice the additions (I didn't!) The commentary, repeated from the original release and featuring the writer/director and Don Cheadle, was made before the oscar win and is too self-congratulatory and reverential to hold much real interest. There are some new short marketing-oriented featurettes, but they constitute little real meat and don't add any real insight to the film, comprising for the most part endless gushing from assorted cast and crew members.

If you haven't seen Crash yet, you have no excuse with this DVD (or its cheaper earlier version) being so readily available. Whilst there's some debate over whether the film really deserved the Award for 'Best Film', there's no doubt it's one of the best films released over the last year or so and worth 107 minutes of anybody's time. Highly recommended.

1 comment:

Nigel said...

I enjoyed this film a lot, despite wanting to find fault with it on account of the hype I had encountered before hand. I did find the 'dad looking after his daughter' scenes a bit schmaltzy, but a highlight for me was ending on probably the best song that the Stereophonics have ever written - it summed up the tone of the movie perfectly for me.