Paul Haggis, penner of last season's Oscar-winner, Million Dollar Baby, combines two of the structurally most tricky approaches to film narrative in his second cinematic feature, Crash: ensemble casting and quilt-storytelling. At its best, this can be remarkably rewarding (notably Todd Solondz' Happiness), but it can also become too daunting and heavy (as with P. T. Anderson's Magnolia). Haggis, however, manages the trick to both give his characters time and at the same time keep his film tight, largely due to the brilliant editing by Hughes Winborne (who'll be a big Oscar-favourite).
That being said, Crash isn't only about structure. This is a movie with an agenda. Not a particularly well-hidden one, but definitely a very well discussed one, as Haggis takes a look at L.A.'s many ethnicities and the clashes between them (at times one might wonder if the entire lives of these people concerns racial issues, but then again, I guess that during a day in a society as multi-cultural as Los Angeles, you do find yourself in quite a few situations). What is remarkable with Crash is how open-minded, examining and multi-layered approach the film takes to this problem. I can't think of a single movie that goes deeper than Haggis does here when it comes to the issue of racism (or any other issue, for that matter). Haggis' script conveys complexity without ever being in pursuit of problems. It is thus one of the most intelligent of the year.
At times, Crash is on the verge of overkill, and there are situations in which the characters border on overreacting (which was a more prominent problem with the before-mentioned Million Dollar Baby), but these are only minor details compared to the potency and relevance of this terminally thought-provoking film. The acting is fine all over with particularly wonderful performances by Don Cheadle (who is about to establish himself as Hollywood's leading African-American actor), Terrence Howard, Thandie Newton and Matt Dillon. The latter two enjoy two of the films most memorable scenes together. These, and a couple more isolated scenes are arguable the most dramatically powerful you'll see this year.