The most surprising Oscar winner for Best Picture in decades, Crash (Lionsgate; Movie •••½, Picture/Sound •••½, Extras ••½) has a couple of secret weapons that quietly recommended it to members of the Academy. First, it captures the true look and feel of Los Angeles, where the majority of Oscar voters live. Second, and far more important, it offers something that no other film among last year's crop of arty, independent Oscar contenders can claim: a happy ending.
Crash isn't as skillfully done as several other films with huge ensemble casts and multiple interlocking stories - such as Robert Altman's classic Nashville or even Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia, from which Crash borrows liberally. But it is well crafted, heartfelt, and superbly acted. Despite its woefully simple and unadorned message - racism is bad - Crash won over audiences with scenes of almost excruciating tension. It's no fun to see people mistreat each other with such passionate anger and hatred, but there's enough awful truth here to keep viewers riveted.
Screenwriter Paul Haggis (Million Dollar Baby) cut his teeth on almost two decades of TV work before directing his first feature film, and it shows: Crash's unusually clean visuals recall nothing so much as a well-made miniseries. The small budget and thoughtful script (which also hooked an Oscar, along with the editing) may scream "indie," but the results are surprisingly comfortable and familiar.
That's one reason the film fares so well on this director's-cut DVD, which adds a few minutes to the theatrical version. The 2.35:1 widescreen transfer is admirably crisp, with only a little grain in the darker scenes. The new 6.1-channel DTS-ES mix is solid but unspectacular, always playing a supporting role to the onscreen drama while spotlighting Mark Isham's haunting electronic score. An hour's worth of documentary material, segmented into topics like "L.A: The Other Character," is marred by an unpleasantly self-congratulatory tone. A middling commentary featuring Haggis and coproducer/cowriter Bobby Moresco is salvaged by the presence of the great Don Cheadle. His acting skills elevate the film, but his service in the role of coproducer made the entire project possible.
See S&V's original review of Crash.
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