Changing Lanes

Review Date:
Director: Roger Michell
Writer: Chap Taylor, Michael Tolkin
Producers: Scott Rudin
Ben Affleck
Samuel L. Jackson
Toni Collette
A Wall Street lawyer, on his way to an extremely important court case, gets into a fender-bender with a less privileged individual, who is also on his way to a courthouse to fight for the right to see his kids, and leaves him standing by the side of the highway. Unfortunately for the lawyer man, he leaves an extremely important file by the road as well, which is intuitively picked up by the down-and-out gentleman. That event leads to a very long day for both men, with many back-and-forths and not much agreement on anything.
Yay! Finally, a good, solid thriller to deflect the crappy path which most of this year’s movies had been taking. And just so you know, this isn’t a “road rage” flick for the pre-teens, it’s a picture filled with many tense moments, two great stories, a rapid pace, intelligence, a moral message and the charismatic stylings of Sam Jackson and Ben Affleck. A movie that kept me watching the whole way through, cringing in my seat during certain scenes, chuckling in others, but mostly, engaged to see how it would all turn out. And how did it turn out? Well, I definitely won’t be giving anything up here, but it goes without saying that I appreciated the way the movie actually brought a greater scope of morality over the entire day’s events, rather than just pitting two angry men against one another. This film is about decisions in one’s life. It’s about the big picture, and how the little details can greatly affect that big picture if you’re not paying close enough attention. It’s about living a good life, but recognizing that bad days will occur and knowing how to deal with them. It’s about human beings, and the connections between them. And even more so, it’s about understanding. It’s always easier to brush someone off as an “asshole” when you don’t know where they’ve been or where they’re coming from, but in most cases, they have valid excuses for doing what they do. In the fast-paced world that we live in today, we sometimes forget to listen, or connect, or even try to understand where others are coming from. Of course, we can’t sit and have tea with every Joe that we run into, but human decency, common sense and a deeper connection to your fellow man, can do the trick most times. Alright, I’m now gonna descend off my existential “high horse” and give you my thoughts on the basic ingredients of the film as well.

What I like about movies like this (which is basically a combination of TIN MEN and FALLING DOWN times twelve!) is that, if done right, the audience really connects to the people within. They understand where they’re coming from, and they too, appreciate many of their very same frustrations. In this case, both the script and the actors come off as entirely believable and it isn’t long before you’re rooting for…well, both guys actually! And that’s another thing, much like in CRIMSON TIDE, in which both of the lead characters had opposing points of view, each of which seemed valid, this film pits two people going through their own separate issues up against one another, and it isn’t long before tit leads to tat, and you can’t really define the line between who’s “right” and who’s “wrong” anymore. Credit goes to director Roger Michell for creating a frantic atmosphere as well, with plenty of camera movements (although I did get a little sea-sick at one point) and close-ups to accentuate the characters’ burgeoning aggravation. And then you’ve got the two lead actors. Ben Affleck, who I’ve personally enjoyed in most films, comes through as a man who is suddenly faced with a major life decision, while at the same time, dealing with this “nut” who is toying with him. He does his usual “Affleck” here, but there’s a lot more to him in the movie as well, and I’m happy to report that much of “Ben” shows up too, pulling me into his zone during several key scenes (one specifically involved his reaction to the “school incident”-I won’t say more). And then there’s Samuel L. Jackson. Aaaaaah, you gotta love this man! Film after film, he consistently manages to control your eyes through the screen, and I don’t think there was one second during this movie, that I thought about turning away. And even though he’s playing more of a “regular guy” here, he still managed to draw me in with his magnetism, his powerful demeanor and his superb acting. Kudos to both men for delivering the goods and for making the film that much stronger. The supporting cast also added muscle to the mix, including William Hurt, Sydney Pollack and a very smarmy Dylan Baker.

In the end, the film is going to thrill you, it’s going to entertain you, it’s going to make you think and it should lead to a few interesting conversations on your way home (maybe even with yourself). Yes! I’m happy because this week has been a pretty crappy “movie week” for me thus far, but this puppy brought me right back into the thick of things. Good, solid entertainment for adults who like to have something to chew on while enjoying their bubble-gum.

(c) 2021 Berge Garabedian

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