DVD - Image A Sound A Extras B-
BD - Image A- Sound A- Extras B-
starring Ben Affleck, Samuel L. Jackson, Toni Collette, Amanda Peet
screenplay by Chap Taylor and Michael Tolkin
directed by Roger Michell
by Walter Chaw If not for its target-audience ending, Changing Lanes is, in nearly every measure of quality, a Seventies movie about helpless protagonists adrift in the midst of an insurmountable system with which they are eternally at odds. It deals with consequences in a way that films just do not anymore and presents two actors who have perhaps never been better in roles indicated by nuance, ambiguity, and intelligence. The screenplay, by newcomer Chap Taylor and (brilliant) veteran Michael Tolkin, is wonderfully balanced and observant and matched step for step in tone and pace by Christopher Tellefson's superior editing and Roger Michell's surprisingly chill directorial eye.
Spoiled child of privilege Gavin Banek (Ben Affleck) is a partner in his father-in-law's (Sydney Pollack) law firm, having a really bad day. After losing a statement of appointment during a fender-bender with Doyle Gipson (Samuel L. Jackson), Banek engages in a progressively aggressive and unpleasant series of exchanges with Doyle. The brilliance of Changing Lanes is that it measures each step in the pair's microcosmic conflict against larger issues of racism and the economic and social glass ceilings that dictate each character's decisions. Both men have opportunities to ameliorate the escalating unpleasantness, and both men become aware of the dreadful cost of their stubborn belligerence.
Changing Lanes evokes the monumentalism that should inhabit every metaphor of social caste systems in the placement and blocking of characters in Michell's widescreen tableaux; the picture is a triumph in look and feel and an actors' workshop. A remarkable shame, then, that its obviously tacked-on ending places this film firmly in Hollywood's timid present and not its furious (i.e., 1970s) past. Yet for all the film's interest in race and social issues, Changing Lanes demonstrates a level of respect for its audience rare and gratifying, with speeches untainted by proselytizing and themes presented with an even-handed regard for reality and logic.
With a sterling supporting cast led by a passionate performance by William Hurt, Changing Lanes is a wonderful surprise. Pitched as a Falling Down urban angst actioner, Changing Lanes may have trouble finding an audience, but it deserves consideration and discussion despite the vapid equivocation of its rabble-pleasing finale. For most of its running time, it holds the promise of a bygone cinema invested in quality and a distinction of voice. Changing Lanes is a story and character-driven reminder of the classic paranoia cinema of Arthur Penn and Alan Pakula; if only it ultimately displayed the courage of the same. Originally published: April 12, 2002.
by Bill Chambers Changing Lanes looks no-bones great on DVD. The film is presented at 2.35:1 in anamorphic widescreen; colours are outstanding and detail is fine. The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is not as active as one perhaps expects: outside the catalytic car crash and a second vehicular mishap, the rear channels haven't much to do, while David Arnold's typically throbbing score gets the most attention from the subwoofer. Extras kick off with a wry commentary from Roger Michell in which he starts out by saying that he removed shots of the Twin Towers from Changing Lanes on September 13 only to have a change of heart prior to the film's opening. Later, he solicits an acting gig in expressing his desire to see what a set's like when you're not the director.
Skip "The Making of Changing Lanes" (15 mins.), a plot rehash from players Affleck, Jackson, et al, and go straight to "The Writer's Perspective" (7 mins.) next. The featurette alternates interviews with co-scripters Chap Taylor and Michael Tolkin, who seem to share a favourite scene: Gavin's lunchdate with his wife (Amanda Peet). (Aside: when did Peet get this good?) Be warned that the clips shown here spoil the final minutes of Changing Lanes. Two above-average deleted scenes and an extended version of Gavin's confessional--neither with optional commentary (though motives for their respective omissions are supplied by Michell in his feature-length yak-track)--and Changing Lanes' theatrical trailer (in 5.1) round out the disc. Originally published: August 31, 2002.
THE BLU-RAY DISC
by Bill Chambers Paramount shepherds Changing Lanes to Blu-ray in a gleaming 2.35:1, 1080p presentation likely sourced from the same master that was used for the DVD's transfer. Be that as it may, the image is hugely refined in/by HiDef, with bolder colours, richer contrasts, and of course much-improved detail. I saw more DVNR than other reviewers seem to be seeing (at least, grain is all but absent, which doesn't jibe with the picture having been shot in Super35), but fear not: Changing Lanes doesn't look anywhere near as processed as the Mountain's concurrent BD issues of the Star Trek film series. As for the attendant 5.1 Dolby TrueHD audio, it's certainly heftier than the DD track of the DVD, though the mix itself is still only intermittently enveloping. I will say that an early scene set inside an AA meeting is so persuasive in terms of ambience that it dazzled me as much as if not more than the expectedly dizzying vehicular hijinks. The abovementioned extras make a return on this platter, the video-based ones in standard-def--the trailer for Changing Lanes a pleasant exception: it got upgraded to HD. Originally published: May 18, 2009.