Film ‘crashes’ into homes with great talent and DVD extras

The spring movie season is not often looked upon as a hotbed for Oscar contenders. That’s why it was such a surprise when “Crash” came along last May, as writer/director Paul Haggis brought his first project to the screen since the success of his previous writing endeavor, the Oscar-winning “Million Dollar Baby.”

“Crash” follows the stories of several different characters interspersed throughout the streets of Los Angeles. During a span of 36 hours, their stories begin to interweave in unique, interesting and sometimes breathtaking ways. The film sets out to examine the issue of racial diversity by tackling everyday stereotypes – the things we think, but never say. It succeeds in every way imaginable.

Be forewarned, “Crash” is not for the narrow-minded. In order to fully appreciate the film, you have to be willing to scrutinize yourself. No one can say they’ve never had a preconceived notion about another race or ethnicity. “Crash” challenges these ideas and succeeds in showing that things are not always what they seem. It illustrates that every human being – black, white, Hispanic or Asian – has multiple layers and different motivating factors behind their actions.

The stellar ensemble cast helps to convey this point. No actor has more than 20 minutes of total screen time, but everyone makes a significant contribution. Don Cheadle is excellent as always, while Matt Dillon gives a sometimes repulsive, sometimes heart-breaking performance as Officer Ryan, a racist cop dealing with his personal demons. Terrence Howard is also flawless in his first role of what has proved to be a breakout year for the actor.

Then there’s Sandra Bullock, who uses what little screen time she has in “Crash” to show us that she really has some acting chops, despite what those who have seen “Miss Congeniality 2” would say. For Bullock, “Crash” proves to be a refreshing departure from her normal work.

The DVD for “Crash” is a one-disc edition with some decent special features. Those lucky enough to get their hands on the limited edition will receive a second disk with some extra special features. Fans can probably expect an official re-release of this film as the awards season approaches.

On the DVD, the film is presented in 2.35 anamorphic widescreen. A full-screen version is also available. The video has made a perfect transition from the big to small screen and the audio track is wonderful as well. This is particularly important in a film like “Crash,” where many scenes feature dialogue and music simultaneously.

The special features on the “Crash” DVD are interesting for a one-disc set. The big disappointment is a waste of an introduction from Paul Haggis, literally consisting of “Hey, this is the ‘Crash’ DVD. Thanks for watching.”

Despite the terrible intro, the two other main special features are exceptional, specifically the making-of documentary. It features a good number of cast and crew members discussing their reasons for participating in the film and exposes the environment on the set.

The DVD also comes with an optional commentary track featuring Haggis, Cheadle and co-writer Bobby Moresco. It is both insightful and humorous at times. The lively commentary provides “Crash” fans with a lot of fascinating information including tidbits about lighting, acting and unintentional goofs. Some of the most interesting remarks come as the three discuss their feelings about each of the actors and the casting process.

Overall, the result of the hard work shown in these extra features is a film that transcends the typical movie-going experience, forcing viewers to examine their own beliefs and prejudices.