Written by Chap Taylor and Michael Tolkin
Directed by Roger Michell
As a society, we’ve become conditioned to making sure the other person “pays” especially when we feel we’ve been wronged. It’s become a part of our culture, especially in the media we view, that there must somehow be retribution enacted and in a visible way that makes us somehow feel vindicated. The consequences of this are all around us as we’ve lost a great deal of compassion and instead revel in people’s misfortune.
Changing Lanes is the story of a small event in the lives of two men that takes on a life of its own because of their own self-centered view of the world and the inability to put themselves in the other person’s shoes. Had either of the men for one moment acted out of compassion, the events shown would have been quite different.
Ben Affleck is a self-involved, self-absorbed, self-centered lawyer Gavin Banek. He’s not a nice guy, really, but he’s got the “right” job, the “right” fiancee, and leading the “right” life, even if it’s ultimately wrong in so many ways as the movie goes on. As the film begins, he is on his way to a crucial court appointment that is part of a deal that will basically solidify his career as a high-powered corporate lawyer.
Samuel Jackson is Doyle Gipson, a recovering alcoholic rebuilding his life one incremental step at a time. He’s finally made it to the point where he can think about once again providing a home for his sons. He’s on his way to an appointment with the judge where he hopes to make the case that his ex-wife should not be permitted to move across the country and take his two sons with her.
The two collide – literally – on a highway in New York City (they’re not freeways there, it’s highways). Initially, it seems amicable. Both men acknowledge it was an accident and Gipson tries to make sure they do the right thing. The two men plan to exchange insurance information, but Gavin just wants to get where he has to go. He hands Doyle a blank check with the words “Better luck next time”, leaving Doyle to fend for himself.
Gavin manages to get to his court case, albeit late, but he has accidentally left behind a file that Doyle has picked up. Unfortunately, Doyle is not so lucky with his court appointment.
Gavin needs the file by the end of the day, but Doyle has become embittered over what the accident has cost him. He tosses the file before he and Gavin have a chance encounter. Although Gavin apologizes, it means nothing to Doyle as the damage has already been done. Doyle manages to get the file back and then taunts Gavin with it.
From here on out, the movie is a tug of war between the two men as they each attempt to make the other pay and force the other to feel or act the way each of them wants the other to. There’s a way this could have played out if each man had approached the other in a more conciliatory and understanding way. Instead, the back and forth between the two men ratchets the situation up.
The acting is first-rate. Although I’ve never been a particular fan of Ben Affleck, he does a pretty good job here. His character has many levels, but basically, he’s someone who knows right from wrong but chooses to do what Is in his own best interest over and over again, both in his life, his career, and this situation. Affleck portrays Gavin as lost in his own moral ambiguity. In some ways, as what is really going on in his life and career slowly come to the surface, the events in the movie give him a chance at a better life than he would have had.
It would be impossible not to be sympathetic to Doyle as Samuel Jackson portrays him. He’s a man who’s made some bad choices, but who among us hasn’t at one time or another? Unfortunately, his choices have cost him a lot in his life until this point, so it’s hard for the people around him to buy what he’s telling them and sympathize with him. I could feel Doyle’s frustration and desire to punish Gavin for what he feels is his fault. However, had he just left the file “lost” and not tried to make it personal, Gavin would have in the long run lost much more and Doyle probably could have risen above it.
Changing Lanes is a psychological thriller and is a good one at that. As the events keep spiraling, I just had this feeling of watching a car wreck as the two men virtually destroy each other and I kept wondering how the madness would finally end. Rather than out-and-out retribution such as taking out a gun and shooting the other, both men try to exact their revenge in a way that doesn’t feel all that “wrong” to begin with, but they are soon so far down the path and away from who they were at the beginning of the film that it’s difficult to recognize the characters. The pace is terrific even from when the events are being set up to seeing what form retribution will take next.
I recommend Changing Lanes as food for thought for many of us. Many times, if we would just leave a situation alone, karma will take care of it in the end. There’s no need to have to force “revenge” on someone ourselves and in the end, it will probably hurt us at least as bad, if not worse than it will the other person.
Categories: Movie Reviews