On the surface, Crash is an in-your-face look at racism in the United States since the film is built solely on the tension that arises when people from different races encounter each other in a variety of situations. But it also digs deeper than that. It tries to show us that there is no clear black or white when it comes to racism. Its all gray.
Like most ensemble films, Crash doesn't seem to have a set story with defined boundaries. It is set in Los Angeles, a city that is truly a melting pot of all cultures and starts off trailing the lives of a seemingly unconnected group of people from different races and different walks of life. But over the span of two days, it shows us how their lives crisscross each other's. There is a sense of unpredictability almost throughout the movie and there are scenes that bring us to the edge of our seats because of this sense of "anything could happen". The links between some of the characters happen as the movie proceeds. But as some tangential links are revealed towards the end, I couldn't help but applaud the movie's screenplay.
Crash uses a diverse set of people to capture all the nuances of racism in the US. All these people are guilty of being racist but not quite in the same way. We see some who express it overtly and others in whom it is dormant but rears its ugly head when in a crunch situation. We see people who stereotype others and people who stereotype themselves. And we see people for whom money or power matter much more than race.
Crash forces us to ask some uncomfortable questions about our attitude towards people of other races. Many times in the film I found myself nodding at something said about a particular race before realizing that that kind of stereotyping was why many of the characters in the film are not likable. But the film doesn't provide any easy answers either. Just as it has characters who break the stereotype, it has characters who fit it(resulting in some rather tragic consequences) too.
The film is quite brazen considering the sensitive topic it has dealt with. It has no qualms touching upon a Chinese woman's difficulty in pronouncing the letter 'r' or commenting on the tendency of Mexicans to park their cars on their lawns. At the same time, it is also bitingly funny at a few places(almost all of them during the conversations between two black youth).