Thandie Newton, Crash (Movie - 2005)
Credit: Crash: Lorey Sebastian

Don’t you hate Canadians? Take this guy Paul Haggis: He sneaks over the border and takes food out of our mouths by stealing TV writing jobs (thirtysomething, Diff’rent Strokes, Walker, Texas Ranger…), and now he’s trying to teach us lessons about intolerance in America? I mean, seriously, these people are a problem. And…cut.

If one thing is made clear by the Crash commentary (with the aforementioned Canadian, co-writer Bobby Moresco, and star/producer Don Cheadle) and the behind-the-scenes doc, it’s that Haggis is in love with every frame of what he calls a ”passion piece.” And bully for him: He achieved something admirable in bringing Hollywood storytelling formulas to bear in confronting the mother of all incendiary topics. The carefully crafted script deals in what Cheadle calls ”the things that you don’t say,” and while Haggis says he wants ”to polarize people…once you get people angry, you get them talking,” he does so via a digestible format, with soaring emotional beats, neatly woven threads, and suspiciously convenient encounters between characters.

At the same time, he spurs some of his actors (principally Matt Dillon and Sandra Bullock) to mine emotional reserves no one knew they had. ”The hope is that it won’t be medicine,” says producer Cathy Schulman, that ”it’ll be an exciting ride,” and it certainly is that. But thanks to Team Haggis’ loyalty to the idea that, as Moresco explains, they had to avoid ”trying to be politically correct” in discussing race, what they encountered was a slashed budget, pay cuts all around, and the queasy feeling that their baby would never see the screen. Don’t you hate studio executives?

Crash (Movie - 2005)
  • Movie
  • 107 minutes