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Thandie Newton and Matt Dillon in a scene from ‘Crash.’

Mr. Movie: Coming full circle

I love movies with lots of different plot lines that somehow come together against all expectations. The only trouble with writing about them is that it is hard not to give away how the various threads are finally woven together.


At least one of them has won a Best Picture Oscar and so I’ll start with Crash (2004). Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle and Matt Dillon lead a fine cast through a rather complex plot involving race relations, bad and error-prone cops and mistaken identities. The screenplay also won Oscar and the complications are worth staying on board to get the payoff.


Babel (2006) is a terrific film that keeps you guessing as to how all these plot lines intersect. An accident connects four groups of people on three different continents: Two young Moroccan goatherders, a vacationing American couple (Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett), a deaf Japanese teen and her father, and a Mexican nanny who takes her young charges across a border without parental permission. The title reminds one of the biblical tower, and miscommunication is one of the main plot lines. The movie was nominated for seven Oscars, but won only for Best Original Score.


Look Both Ways (2005) is a splendid Australian film with a mostly unknown cast.  Reporter Nick discovers he has cancer, and on his way to cover a train accident, he encounters Meryl, who witnessed the event. Nick’s colleague, Andy, has to deal with his ex-wife’s refusal to believe he can properly care for their children. The train victim’s wife and the driver of the train are grieving and trying to get on with life. The ending of this film brought tears to my eyes.


Mother and Child (2009) has a good story and a crackerjack cast: Samuel L. Jackson (you can’t get away from him!), Naomi Watts, Annette Bening and Kerry Washington are as good as expected. The film involves adopted children, attempts to reconnect, lots of twists and turns, and a fine ending.


Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic (2000) features interwoven stories about the drug trade in America and elsewhere. Benecio Del Toro, Catherine Zeta Jones, Michael Douglas and Don Cheadle head the cast. Soderberg, always the innovator, uses different color grades for each story so it’s easy to tell them apart. There are other movies named Traffic, but I can recommend only this one.

Syriana (2005) completes my list. The Middle Eastern oil industry is the backdrop of this tense drama, which weaves together numerous story lines. Bennett Holiday (Jeffrey Wright) is an American lawyer in charge of facilitating a dubious merger of oil companies, while Bryan Woodman (Matt Damon), a Switzerland-based energy analyst, experiences both personal tragedy and opportunity during a visit with Arabian royalty. Meanwhile, veteran CIA agent Bob Barnes (George Clooney) uncovers an assassination plot with unsettling origins. You will not see the end coming.


All of the films in this article are available on DVD. All are for adults. If you can think of any other movies that fit this rather limited category, I would appreciate an email advising.