This film, made in 2009, is in every way well-thought. Wayne Kramer, director/ writer/ co-producer, himself coming from South Africa, must have felt the same hardship getting across the U.S. soil and getting legal as he, so delicately, highlights the devastating, full-of-worries process of gaining status once one steps into the land of dreams.
Before scanning through the plot of the movie Crossing Over I would like to mention my own impression over its technical features. First of all, the movie benefits from a notably rich cast led by Harrison Ford (as Max Brogan) and others such as Ashley Judd (as Denise Frankel) and Ray Liotta (Cole Frankel) that perfectly passes on every single ripple of emotion inside of each character, caused by conditions of life, to the audience.
Though, there seems to be shortcomings in terms of cultural or behavioral study of ethnic families since there are self-contradictory instances, the Iranian family for example who has come to America long ago despite the fact that the head of the family is depicted to be pro-Islamic Revolution and a Khomeini follower. In spite of the associations of a religious person, this man serves liquor to his guests. Odd. Moreover, the outfits don’t match people with such profiles. You can’t tell whether it is due to the director’s lack of knowledge or the fact that families such as this one, to some extent, try to adapt to the American life. On the other hand Kramer is so close to put Iranian culture in the electric chair when he almost, wrongly, says this is what awaits Iranian girls who share similar circumstances with Zahra Baraheri’s: victims of honor killing. But thank God at the end of the movie the director removes the confusion by showing that this case was a mere mental condition of an older brother.
Secondly, camera angle and movements are flawless and so professionally managed in that the shots clearly drag the audience into the movie and make them feel the same as characters do, or in some cases see into their thoughts.
The setting, according to the nature of the plot, is brilliantly chosen; A very appealing, cosmopolitan Los Angeles which comprises of different ethnicities and attracts many immigrants.
The plot of the movie orbits around the hot, controversial issue of immigration and horrible phases individuals have to undergo to get to share the American Dream and enjoy the “promised opportunities”.
Some characters depicted in this movie reveal a paradox in who they are and what they have to do for a living, or mostly in this case, to get legal and grant a green card:
Max Brogan (Harrison Ford) who is shown, in his first scene in this movie, to be a caring, soft, and sensitive “human”, works as an ICE agent, who is constantly being mocked by his colleagues for his so called softness. The truth is this brand of job requires a stone-cold heart concerning what they face every day. Ford’s character is a lonely old man who catches illegal immigrants during sudden raids to workplaces, like Andasol Fabrics, then deports them, and finally runs after them trying to patch things up.
Hamid Baraheri (Cliff Curtis), is Brogan’s Partner at work who deports minorities while he himself comes from one of them!!! Another conflicting situation about this character is that he describes his culture as in Iranian families it is important to make the father proud, but did they? Is the father proud when his daughter is dead?
The rock-musician-to-be Gavin Kossef (Jim Sturgess) is a Jew claiming himself as an atheist, though, when need be, he does not hesitate to make use of his “Jewish Card” to get the American green card by trying to convince the clergies that he is a Hebrew scholar as well as preacher.
Claire Shepard (Alice Eve), Gavin’s Aussie girlfriend, who has come to the U.S. pursuing her dream to become an actress, but lacks the status to perform in the TV show in which she has already got a part. Eve’s character confronts severe disgrace plus deportation when the authorities find out she has been sharing bed with an INS official to get her green card.
Cole Frankel (Ray Liotta) is the INS official who is married to an immigration attorney, one trying to cut down the number of immigrants the other thriving to defend their rights and carry them into citizenship.
Denise Frankel (Ashley Judd), Cole Frankel’s wife, an Immigration attorney who is doing her best helping people. The touching trait about this character is her pendant of African Continent. It is most probable that it is to show how much she feels for the little Nigerian girl, who hopelessly waits for her parents to come and get her out of the penitentiary in which she is being kept for so long.
Zahra Baraheri (Melody Khazai) is the only American member of the Iranian family. Born and raised. She is the little sister to Hamid Baraheri. The problem about this character concerns his way of life which is considered shameful to the whole family.
Taslima (Summer Bishil), a fifteen years old Bengali high school student, who gets herself in trouble delivering a speech which results in her being accused of “eliciting sympathy to the 9/11 highjackers.” Though she pleads for the freedom of speech, while being inspected by an FBI agent she gets deported anyway. In her assignment paper she had written: “their voices were heard. You may not like what they had to say or how they got their message across, but for the first time we heard it.”
Mireya Sanchez (Alice Braga), an illegal migrant who comes to Los Angeles to work from Mexico by crossing the U.S. border. When she gets busted by Max Brogan she mentions her son and begs the agent to take care of him. Later she gets killed at the U.S. border trying to come back for her little son.
Yong Kim (Justin Chon), who is the elder to a Korean family whose father has brought them to the U.S. so that they could have a better future. He joins a Korean gang which later involves in an armed robbery. His friends get killed by agent Hamid Beraheri, who lets Yong get away.
There have been some comments on the plot of this movie blaming it for its contrived stream of coincidences that glue all the characters together. However, I believe everyone in their lives has had an experience or two of this kind; bumping into an old friend through a chain of acquaintances, for example. Small world!