I watched this movie last night at random, expecting little more than an over-revved thriller lacking substance and subtlety. I was surprised; this movie was good - complex, thought-provoking, disconcerting –, so much better than anticipated.
The plot follows one day in the lives of two men – Gavin Baneck, a young and successful New York attorney (played by Ben Affleck), and Doyle Gipson (superbly portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson), an insurance salesman and recovering alcoholic trying to salvage his relationship with his children and divorced wife. The two seemingly very different men are connected through a car accident which, though technically minor, has far-reaching consequences. What follows is an unraveling of identities as each man - driven by hurt, anger, and a need for control - attempts to one-up the other in an exchange of malicious pranks in which Baneck and Gipson both lose their hold of reason and ethical consideration. Each man confronts the other – but more significantly, each confronts and re-evaluates himself.
The direction of the movie is powerful. The artistic decision to frequently alternate between scenes depicting the two protagonists’ lives is especially clever. The differences between the two and the groups they represent are thus implied; viewers are invited to recognize that these men come from very different worlds. Each of these worlds, however, breeds its own debilitating pressures, its own crimes. Both men seek, and manage, to hurt in their own capacities. The movie thus simultaneously highlights sameness and difference between various groups – black and white, rich and poor –, providing a realistic portrayal of life that denies easy, stereotypical categorization.
The casting and acting - from primary to minor characters – greatly complement the realism of the movie. On the downside, I did find the music and script to be at times off or overdone. I also thought the movie lacked depth and nuance in its depiction of women and their experiences (though, arguably, given what the movie attempts to do, this was simply beyond its manageable scope). On the whole, the direction of the movie and performances given throughout were strong enough to outweigh the negatives I noted.
Aside from these, what I think Changing Lanes does so well is tell a story true to life. In its exploration of human nature, social order, relationships, and justice, it goes to some very dark places. I’ll admit, this movie frightened me at times in its profound bluntness. That said, there is a hopeful thread throughout: Baneck and Gipson are good men, although both seriously flawed: they are looking for love, stability, happiness, and meaning in a world, and in themselves, where these things are hard to find. Both men grow. True to life, Changing Lanes is a movie of both despair and hope.
To wrap up, I’m glad I watched this movie. It has caused me to think and that is something all good movies do. And so, here’s my recommendation: watch this movie. It’s underrated, but it’s good.
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About the reviewer
Swadhi Ranganee (Swadhi)
Jun 26, 2010
Apr 30, 2013 12:13 AM UTC
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