Crossing Over (2009)

Rated: R for pervasive language, some strong violence and sexuality/nudity.
Length: 113 minutes
Grade: CFAB+=B
Budget: Perhaps 20 million
Box Office: $7 million (5 U.S.,, 2 DVD)

Written and Directed by: Wayne Kramer (First major film)
Starring: Harrison Ford, Ray Liota, Ashley Judd, Jim Sturgess, Cliff Curtis, Alice Braga, Alice Eve, and Summer Bishil.

This is a montage of vignettes dealing with various aspects of illegal immigration cases wrapped around the main character of a career ICE agent who really tries to do right in his difficult job.

Entertainment Value: C
I can’t say I enjoyed this, and many of the scenes were chopped together in a way that didn’t make them sit right all the time. The fact that this is a significantly edited version of a film originally 140 minutes long makes sense. It’s more painful and frustrating than entertaining, and it’s also pretty heavy-handed as a propaganda piece. Nevertheless, the stories are interesting and they aren’t all that predictable.

Superficial Content: F
Drugs/Alcohol D, Sex/Nudity F, Violence F, Language F
This is definitely an R movie. And one problem with it is that there are prolonged several scenes of nudity that weren’t necessary or could have been shot far less graphically. Language is very heavy, and violence involves several people being killed. There’s minor drug use and a fair amount of drinking. Definitely a heavy R movie, so no kids and maybe not even a lot of adults should see this. I wish they had done it differently in this regard.

Significant Content: A
It’s not so obvious what the overall point here is, but I’d say it’s meant to show that the immigration problem in this country leads to all sorts of really ugly situation. People are so desperate to be here that they are vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. Trying to be decent under these circumstances is very complicated. Several scenes show both what it looks like to have moments of grace fulfilled and also missed opportunities for grace.

Artistic/Thought Value: B
First, the thing I admire about this film is that it didn’t just write clich├ęd stories. It both picked very interesting plot ideas and then dealt with them unabashedly. This was especially interesting when assimilation issues like with Asian gangs, Muslim family honor, and an atheist trying to exploit his Jewish heritage became major plot elements. At the same time, as I hinted at before, this certainly isn’t Crash. And one of the major failings is to really generate a high level of sympathy for any of the characters. We watch what happens to them and are horrified to a degree, but not the way we would be if we had learned to really care about them. Compared to Trade or The Visitor, for example, this movie probably just tried to do too many stories to make any of them really compelling.

Discussion Questions:
~Think of some of the plot turns in this movie where characters had the opportunity to be merciful or extend grace. When did they do so and when did they choose not to do so? How important is the discretion to do less than you can an important aspect of grace?
~If you weren’t American, would you try to come here? Would you break the law to do so?
~Do you think a good person could do Brogan’s job? If a job is so difficult that a virtuous and compassionate person can’t do it, does that mean that the job should not be done or that the laws that require that job be done should be changed? How do decent people deal with the challenge of indecent situations? How did Jesus deal with them?
~Do you think all the vulgar content of this movie makes it more realistic? Would the movie have been as memorable without so much “content?”
~Which do you think it’s harder to live with: guilt or failure?
~One character says that we should understand our enemies, especially when they resort to terrorism to try to express themselves. Is she right?
~Do you think it’s inherently evil to split up families? How might a family ethic change our treatment of illegal immigrants? How is this different from sending criminal parents to jail?

Poignant or memorable scenes:
~Discussion at the diner.
~Raiding the sweatshop.
~FBI at the family’s house.
~The convenience store. What would you have done? What did you want to see happen?
~The airport at the end.
~Telling the family in Mexico.
Overall Grade: B
A heavy R rated movie that is certainly guilty of overdramatizing its vignettes, but still leaves you with poignant memories and questions to discuss.

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