Directed by Paul Haggis, starring Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon, Jennifer Esposito, William Fitchner, Brendan Fraser, Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges, Thandie Newton, Michael Pena, Shaun Toub, Ryan Phillippe and Larenz Tate.

'Crash's writer-director Paul Haggis was car-jacked at gunpoint coming out of a video shop in Los Angeles. Fearful, he changed all the locks in his home. Curious, he began thinking about the minds of the criminals. Inspired, he decided to write about it from their point of view. After 9/11, what would be the theme of the film seemed all the more important.

Similar to Paul Thomas Anderson's 'Magnolia', 'Crash' shows 13 people's lives collide within 36 hours in LA. It looks at the prejudices and racism found in everyday life, the fear of strangers, the attempts to rationalise the cause.

Graham Waters (Cheadle) puts it best: "It's the sense of touch. In any real city, you walk, you know? You brush past people, people bump into you. In LA, nobody touches you. I think we miss that touch so much, that we crash into each other, just so we can feel something."

Waters is an African-American police detective who is torn apart by the fact that his drug-addicted mother loves his criminal brother more than him. And his partner and girlfriend, the Hispanic Ria (Esposito), is being driven away by his emotional distance and racial insensitivity.

Jean Cabot's (Bullock) nightmare, and her fear of strangers, comes true when she and husband Rick (Fraser), a District Attorney, get car-jacked by African-American criminals Anthony (Ludacris) and Peter (Tate).

Daniel (Pena), a Mexican locksmith is a loving father to his young daughter, but someone wants revenge on him for something he didn't do. A Persian shopkeeper, Farhad (Toub), goes to Daniel's house with the gun that he bought to protect his family in the wake of 9/11.

Cameron (Howard) is a rich African-American television producer, married to the beautiful Christine (Newton). While innocently driving home from a party, they are pulled over by Officers Ryan (Dillon) and Hansen (Phillippe). Ryan is a prejudiced policeman who subjects both to a debasing interrogation and carries out an intense search on Christine. The young and open-minded Hansen is disgusted by his partner's behaviour.

Ryan's story is the most harrowing. Firstly, he's a power-tripping racist, then, in some amazingly poignant scenes, we discover he's a loving son and helpless carer to his ill father. This good/bad juxtaposition, seen in all the characters but to a lesser extent, is one of the damning realities of the film.

It's also Ryan who meets the violated Christine for a second time in the 36 hours, but this time in a life or death situation. Forcing the two to meet again, in one of the most overwhelming scenes of the film, shines a more disturbing and sickening light on prejudice.

A seamless continuity ties all these complex crashes together. Characters career into each other's lives, sometimes in cars, sometimes in diatribes, but always with the same biased approach. The use of different styles of music that the characters listen to is just another subtle hint at an interracial world. But while 'Crash' can't solve the problem it tries to attack, it gives a little insight and offers the ultimate realisation that nobody knows who they really are.

Impact. That's what this gritty film has. With a rake of top class performances from top class actors, Paul Haggis manages to hammer his point home, scene after scene through a deftly written script, humour, action and seriousness. It's a gripping film, unpredictable through its complexities and provocative.

Poignant, beautiful, disturbing and definitely worthy of your time.

Patricia O' Callaghan