Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Changing Lanes. B+


It's funny that my viewing of The Town was preceded by an underrated movie featuring Ben Affleck's most neglected performance. The film is Changing Lanes, and like The Town, it reminds us of pictures made long ago. Changing Lanes is a thriller in the traditional sense, in that it's dependent only on plot and character development. There's no intrusive music, exaggerated action scenes, and gratuitous CGI. The closest thing to an action scene is a car accident that sets the stage for all sorts of drama and complications that drive the story. Essentially the movie examines the strengths and weaknesses of two men in a single day after an untimely fender bender. You understand them both every step of the way, which is a testament to the movie's central goal: to show how a common occurrence in everyday America can lead to repercussions that are generally overlooked. Maybe the most admirable aspect of Changing Lanes is that it recognizes the role of conscience, which in turn leads to comparisons of classic morality plays like A Man for all Seasons and 12 Angry Men. I admired nearly everything in the movie, but what I really appreciate is how it takes two front-line stars (Affleck and Samuel L. Jackson) and puts them in a thriller and manages to keep it so old fashioned. But it's not intentionally a throwback, instead just reprising themes that were prevalent when movies like A Man for all Seasons and 12 Angry Men were coming out. Rather than being archaic, it simply brings out universal ideas that aren't common today. It's a strong movie, but also a little sad because it reminds us we don't see these entertainments brought to the screen with regularity these days. And that's not good at all.

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