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Crossing Over

2009-07-17 12:07

What it's about:

This gruelling, multi-narrative strand movie (in the style of Crash and Magnolia) deals with the harsh realities of gaining (and in some cases, maintaining) citizenship in the United States. Several threads interweave, with Harrison Ford playing a compassionate immigration police officer, tormented by the poverty and desperation of the illegal workers he deports, who is partnered to Hamid Baraheri (Cliff Curtis), himself an immigrant waiting naturalisation. Ashley Judd plays an immigration attorney, dealing with the case of a young Muslim woman who is facing deportation for expressing the wrong opinion at school. Meanwhile her husband, Cole (Ray Liotta) elicits sexual favours from a young model in return for a green card.

What we thought:

Crossing Over is an emotionally draining film, and it never hesitates to scream the message that America treats immigrants like garbage, from the Mexicans who risk life and limb crossing the border, to various educated first worlders who have no rights until they get that green card. There have been other films about immigration, but director Wayne Kramer’s mix of gritty and arty make this a very watchable one.

Harrison Ford heads up a fine cast as sensitive police officer Max Brogan. It is a role that makes the most of Ford’s trademark worried look, as he is faced daily with gut-wrenching decisions. Be it the tearing apart of a family through deportation, or the slightly contrived subplot involving the murder of his partner’s sister, Ford makes a very sympathetic and credible character caught between enforcing the law and exercising his own compassion; a theme faced by every American character in the movie.

Unfortunately, gut-wrenching is the order of the day for this film, and the unrelenting misery and callousness become rather overwhelming. It could be argued that there simply aren’t that many winners in the whole immigration game, especially when people are fleeing poverty simply to confront a host of other problems in their new chosen home. When Crossing Over does offer hope, it feels stupidly puritanical and willing to judge exactly how far is too far in order to start a new life.

Apparently the movie was cut down by half an hour for a cinematic release, and it shows with some narratives given less time than others. As it is, the movie is rather lengthy already, but there are some stories that just feel like they should carry more emotional weight – especially the thread concerning Ashley Judd’s character and her attempts to help an orphaned immigrant child. What should have been the movie’s saddest yet potentially uplifting scenario goes by with barely a whimper.

Crossing Over is not a bad movie despite the several flaws, but it does itself no favours by inviting comparisons to better and more focused art films like Babel and Crash. Most people are aware that immigration is a terrible business that can destroy people’s lives, but after that message has been hammered home for two hours, I was hoping to be left with a little more than some pretty pictures and a few clichéd subplots.

Every day thousands of people illegally cross our borders... only one thing stands in their way. America.

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