The movie Crash is the story of a number of individuals in Los Angeles, whose paths cross during the course of thirty-six hours. Each of these individuals is a victim of his or her own prejudices and experiences. These prejudices affect their interactions with each other as they move through their life, work and problems.
The story begins with a multiple-car crash and almost immediately moves back to the events of the day before. One by one, the plot traces the lives of several characters and the problems they face even as they live in a multi-cultural city like Los Angeles. There are Rick Cabot (Brendan Fraser), the district attorney, and his wife Jean Cabot (Sandra Bullock) who are suspicious of all those who are not like them. Jean’s racial prejudice is further escalated when she is car-jacked by two African-Americans. She is also suspicious of the Mexican locksmith who comes to replace her locks. Towards the end, she is forced to change her opinion when following an accident the only person who is available to help her is her Mexican maid Maria.
The locksmith, Daniel Ruiz (Michael Peña), is a family man looking for a safe neighborhood for his family. However, being a Mexican, he has to face prejudices, first from Jean and later from a Persian store owner, Farhad, who does not understand him and thinks that Daniel is trying to cheat him when Daniel tells him that he needs a new door. When Farhad’s store is robbed during the night, he puts the blame squarely on Daniel and takes a gun to shoot him. Fortunately, the gun is loaded with blanks and no one is hurt. But the incident makes Farhad realize his mistakes.
The African-Americans who carjack Jean are Anthony (Chris Bridges) and Peter (Larenz Tate). Anthony feels that society is unfairly prejudiced against the African-Americans and steals Jean’s car simply because she had looked uncomfortable while walking past him. He claims that he steals only from prejudiced white people and that he would never hurt another black man. However, when he carjacks Cameron (Terrence Howard), a black movie director, Cameron pulls him up from bringing a bad name to all African-Americans. Subsequently, we see a change of heart when he releases a van full of Asian migrants for whom he was being offered $500 per head. We realize that Anthony is not such a bad person as he hands over all the money he has to the Asians.
Peter, is the good-for-nothing younger brother of Detective Graham Waters (Don Cheadle). He does not believe that white people are biased against African-Americans. Ironically, towards the end, he is shot by a white police officer, Tommy Hanson (Ryan Phillipe), who wrongly assumes that Peter is reaching for a gun when he puts his hand in his pocket. Tommy is a rookie police officer who is disturbed after he watches his partner harass Cameron and molest his wife Christine (Thandie Newton), simply because they are African-American. Feeling guilty, he later saves Cameron from being shot at by the police.
Tommy’s partner, Officer John Ryan (Matt Dillion), has problems of his own as he is struggling to get proper medical care for his sick father. His racist prejudice is shown again when he blows up at an African-American HMO employee. However, we realize that despite being racist, he is not really a bad person when he puts his life in danger to save Christine from a car wreck.
Thus throughout the movie, we come across a number of people who are either racially prejudiced or are victims of other people’s prejudices. Yet towards the end, we realize that these prejudices are only on the surface and underneath they are all good human beings who are in fact victims of their own circumstances.
The movie gives an insight into the multi-cultural American society, where people from all kinds of ethnic backgrounds live and share the same common resources. The United States is often referred to as the country of immigrants. The movie aptly portrays the conflicts between the immigrants and the white majority of the United States. It shows that when people from different cultures come together, there are bound to be mutual suspicions and it can take years, even centuries to be completely free of these prejudices. Yet the movie, in a very simplified way, shows that if we look beneath our own prejudices, we are all humans with similar problems and prejudices.
The movie helps us understand the realities of American Society and helps us realize that the coming together of different cultures is not a smooth process but a complicated one that requires a lot of patience and understanding from all concerned. This insight into human psychology makes Crash an important movie for the class since the American Society is nothing but an amalgam of a number of different cultures attempting to overcome their cultural biases to form a unified society.