BIG THUMBS UP FILM REVIEW RATING!
The initial dark qualities that surrounded the opening 30 minutes of this film made me wonder whether I wanted to continue watching it. But I did. And I'm glad I did.
The story is about an interlinking section of lives between people of varying ethnicity, working backgrounds, and class and how one little event can effect the lives of those they've never met.
Racism rears its ugly head early and often in the film, and does so in the bright light of day. Nothing is hidden or candy-coated for the audience. And all of the characters have depth and emotion and love and hate and fear and hope balled up inside themselves.
A cop, who cares for his ailing and aging father in a very loving way, is also a bigot and uses his power as a policeman to exact revenge on those (i.e. African Americans) he sees as causing many of his and his father's problems.
A district attorney who gets his SUV car-jacked one night, tries not to stereotype those black men who stole it, but also has to deal with what "the black vote" will think when this news comes out. He also has to handle the sudden panicky fear his wife feels toward any minorities they meet (including their long-time, hispanic housekeeper).
A hispanic man who installs locks for a living must deal with the prejudices people feel toward him because of some gang tatoos that peek out from underneath his clothing. But he's also a loving father with a little girl at home who fears that something bad will happen to her; they used to live in a very tough neighborhood where gunshots were a common sound. The scenes with this father and daughter never ceased to grip me, especially when some of the girl's fears appear to be coming true.
A Persian immigrant who owns a store must fight to understand and to be understood in a land where he feels hatred at every corner because of the Sept. 11th attacks. And he responds in kind by buying a gun to protect his store's property, much to the dismay of his wife and daughter.
...And the list of characters go on, each event folding over and effecting the others. It's an awesome spectacle to behold, and the end is like a piece of interpretive art. There's no definitive message to hang on to other than that we're humans, flawed and greatness in equal quantities.
The all-star cast was also pretty impressive: Sandra Bullock (MISS CONGENIALITY), Brendan Frazier (THE MUMMY series), Don Cheadle (HOTEL RWANDA), Matt Dillon (DRUGSTORE COWBOY), Daniel Dae Kim (LOST), etc.
I've read other reviews that comment on the "sterotyping" of the racist characters. But that is completely and utterly untrue. The fact that the characters often knew the stereotypes surrounding them, and commented on these, helped bring the screenplay to an entirely different level. And if, as a viewer, you felt offended by the film, you might want to ask yourself why that is.
Although the film uses race to deliver the message of hate, fear, and shallowness, the ending is surprisingly up-beat as some (but not all) of these great characters grow internally.
Oscar Award Winner: Best Motion Picture of the Year
Oscar Award Winner: Original Screenplay
Oscar Award Winner: Achievement in Film Editing
BAFTA Award Winner: Original Screenplay
BAFTA Award Winner: Actress in a Supporting Role