Anthony's Film Review

Changing Lanes (2002)

A decent drama about escalating rage, ethics, human nature, and redemption...

How often does this happen to you? You have some important business to take care of, and successfully carrying out the necessary tasks hinges on getting to a destination before a certain time. You have a plan ensuring that you get to where you need to go without being late. But on the way, something unexpected happens, and it ultimately delays your trip. Furthermore, your tardiness isn't just a minor nuisance to other people. It actually results in major consequences that work heavily against you, and you feel you have no way out, no solution to the problems that come up, and no alternatives to the situation you're in.

This frustrating, yet all too ordinary situation, is the premise of the 2002 movie Changing Lanes. It stars Ben Affleck as a lawyer named Gavin Banek and Samuel L. Jackson as an insurance worker named Doyle Gipson. Both men don't know each other, but they're driving on the same road to a courthouse (in fact, the same one). They meet when their cars accidentally collide side by side while on the freeway. Now, you might expect that these men would get into a verbal or physical fight. Interestingly enough, these two men seem somewhat apologetic and willing to solve the problem in a fair way. However, they're also late, and Gavin attempts to give Doyle a blank check before leaving and saying, "Better luck next time."

Another thing happens at this scene. Gavin opens his briefcase, which contains documents for a court case he must attend, and accidentally loses one of the file folders contained within. After he drives off, Doyle picks up the file from the ground and takes it. Now, remember how major consequences can ensue? Well, what happens next is that Gavin is unable to resolve an issue in the courtroom because of the missing file. In fact, not having it may ultimately lead to him and his law firm going to jail. Meanwhile, Doyle is late for a child custody hearing, and he is given no chance because of his tardiness.

Although this situation is not road rage as one may typically see it, this is an example of delayed road rage. After their unfortunate moments in the courthouse, Gavin and Doyle feel that they have much to lose, and their frustration leads them to try to get revenge on each other. The one thing that really struck me about these characters is how they're two-sided. They are not purely evil people. They are decent people who are simply being pushed to the edge. There are moments in the story when one tries to make amends with the other, but something still goes wrong, and that triggers rage and another harmful act against the other.

Changing Lanes is a movie that is classified as a drama and a thriller. Although I would agree, I would go further by saying that it's mainly a drama with moments that contain mild thriller pacing. The movie switches between Gavin and Doyle, and each time, the current scenes focuses either on a personal situation to resolve or on an action against the other character. As a result, it feels more like 75% drama and 25% thriller, not half and half. I would've liked the movie more if the pacing were increased all the way through.

Even so, I did like the characters, and that's the main reason I'm giving this movie a positive rating. It's true that I was engaged by the two main characters increasingly despising each other, but I also liked how they really just want things to be resolved. I found myself having a mixture of hope for things to go right and worry that they will ultimately suffer bad fates. And of course, I did enjoy the performances of Affleck and Jackson. They help make the characters seem real and very much like us. That is the main reason I enjoyed Changing Lanes.

Anthony's Rating:

For more information about Changing Lanes, visit the Internet Movie Database.


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