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6 Degrees Entertainment

'Changing Lanes [Blu-ray]'
(Ben Affleck, Samuel L. Jackson, et al / Blu ray / R / (2002) 2009 / Paramount)

Overview: Late for court, an attorney weaves in and out of traffic. In a different lane, a father whose right to see his children rests on getting to court on time. A minor accident will turn these two strangers into beasts.

DVD Verdict: 'Changing Lanes' is a film that surprised me almost every minute of the way. There's a lot of plot and theme at work here, but I want to emphasize that this is hardly pretentious filmmaking; it's an honest look at just how far pressure can push normal men, as well as how such pressure can bring out the best qualities in these same people. After a rather clumsy introduction and a chaotically directed crash scene that felt rather rushed, the film settled in comfortably into its main story. On the surface, the movie plays perfectly well as a thriller, certainly enough to satisfy thriller buffs looking for hard-edged suspense.

But further yet, the film becomes a character study of two men who lead opposite lives, but perhaps aren't as dissimilar as each may think. Rich and affluent, Affleck's Banek is a man on the top, but despite his seemingly arrogant and impatient behavior, he displays a moral and conflicted center, torn by what's right and what everyone else-namely his boss, co-workers, wife-says is right. Undoubtedly the most complex character Affleck has ever played, this is also the young actor's best performance to date.

Samuel L. Jackson is easily one of the best actors around, and his portrayal here is absolutely terrific, perhaps his most substantial performance since his role in Pulp Fiction. Gipson is certainly less priveleged than Banek, and this societal gap displays an interesting effect once things get out of hand. Gipson represents the majority of us, the working middle class that's frustrated when fate hands him a wrong turn. The disastrous day that Gipson endures is affecting, and it's both simultaneously crushing and exhilarating to see a reasonable man go to the extremes.

There are far more themes at work here, and I've only touched on the surface. For instance, there's a powerful scene where Amanda Peet (as Banek's wife) delivers a coldly manipulative speech that clues us in as to why Banek would cheat on his beautiful wife with a less physically attractive, but far kinder, more emotionally supportive woman (played well by Toni Collete). Another similarly powerhouse sequence is Sydney Pollack's (playing Banek's boss) diatribe on ethics in business and why the cutthroat method is the only effective tool for pressing business matters. With an abundance of moments like these, there's so much theme at work in the script that the film simply demands repeat viewings. [EL] This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the following Special Features:

Audio Commentary by director Roger Michell
A Writer’s Perspective (6 mins)
2 Deleted Scenes
Extended Scene
Original Theatrical Trailer