Dir & Writer: Paul Haggis (Million Dollar Baby: screenplay; Walker, Texas Ranger: creator)
Boy. What a smart script. This man's last two writing projects are both among the best I have ever seen. Yet another subject matter that you had better do right if you are going to do at all, and Haggis does it right.
A day and a half in LA racial relations are chronicled, with many different stories and most importantly different perspectives intersecting throughout. The first half of the movie had me wondering if the vision presented would be too depressing to be very enlightening. All of the characters expose their inner hatred, anxiety, ignorance and cruelty to us. But the film's glorious second half turns every single character on her/his head, finding redemption and temptation in surprising ways. What emerges is a deeply interesting and truthful composite of the variety of approaches to race in the US today.
The jaw dropping scene of Matt Dillon's redemption is so powerful that it makes the movie itself (no spoilers). It adds a depth and complexity to his character that makes him so real. None of the characters are prefect, none are evil, and all have their own reasons for behaving the way they do. The movie refuses to construct a strawperson and savage it, but rather indicts the whole society; everyone has some streaks of both hatred and love in them, and put in the right situation anything is possible.
I can't say the acting is particularly memorable, especially the always poor Sandra Bullock and the sometimes good but not this time Brendon Fraser. Dillon is like always great, and Don Cheadle tackles the emotionally distant detective well enough. The direction is fine and in some places inspired. But, as is usual with movies I love, the writing overshadows all in this film.
Not only a high recommendation, but I will suggest this as required viewing for those who care about contemporary culture and social relations. An important and ambitious work, one that deserves our gratitude.