A suspense thriller in which a minor auto accident triggers a chain of events that forces two strangers to become vicious antagonists. This film explores the human condition.
Review by David Bruce


This page was created on April 12, 2002
This page was last updated on May 30, 2005

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One Wrong Turn Deserves Another

Directed by Roger Michell
Writing credits (WGA) Chap Taylor (story) Chap Taylor (screenplay) (more)

Ben Affleck .... Gavin Banek
Samuel L. Jackson .... Doyle Gipson
Toni Collette .... Michelle
Amanda Peet .... Cynthia Banek
Deen Badarou .... Eulogy speaker
Myriam Blanckaert .... Lawyer
Bradley Cooper .... Gordon Pinella
Jordan Gelber .... Young Priest

Directed by Roger Michell
Story by Chap Taylor
Screenplay by Chap Taylor, Michael Tolkin

Produced by
Ronald M. Bozman .... executive producer
Scott Rudin .... producer
Adam Schroeder .... executive producer

Original music by David Arnold
Cinematography by Salvatore Totino
Film Editing by Christopher Tellefsen

MPAA: Rated R for language.
For rating reasons, go to FILMRATINGS.COM, and MPAA.ORG.
Parents, please refer to PARENTALGUIDE.ORG

CD info
Changing Lanes
Score by David Arnold

Changing Lanes (Double Sided)
Changing Lanes (Double Sided)
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Click to enlargeA rush-hour fender-bender on New York City?s crowded FDR Drive, under most circumstances, wouldn?t set off a chain reaction that could decimate two people?s lives. But on this day, at this time, a minor collision will turn two complete strangers into vicious adversaries. Their means of destroying one another might be different, but their goals, ultimately, will be the same: Each will systematically try to dismantle the other?s life in a reckless effort to reclaim something he has lost.

Click to enlargeLate for court, high-powered attorney Gavin Banek (Ben Affleck) is weaving through heavy traffic. In a different lane, is Doyle Gipson (Samuel L. Jackson), a father, whose right to see his children rests on the decision of a judge with a full docket and no time to spare. On the surface, Banek and Gipson are two very different men: One is struggling to reach the top of his career; the other is desperately scrambling away from rock bottom. But a minor accident will drive these two strangers to the brink of self-destruction, and prove that rage can equalize any playing field when men turn into beasts. CLIP

"Changing Lanes" marks the American directorial debut of Roger Michell, the award-winning British director whose 1999 romantic comedy "Notting Hill" garnered worldwide accolades from both audiences and critics alike. "Changing Lanes" also marks the screenwriting debut of Chap Taylor who, along with Academy Award?-nominated screenwriter Michael Tolkin ("The Player"), grabbed Michell?s attention with their dynamic script.

"The script immediately captured my imagination," says the director. "It?s about a chance meeting between two men that spins them out of their orbits, causing them to behave in irrational, strange and violent ways. You just don?t expect the steps these guys will take to get at each other."

Click to enlargeAcademy Award? winner Ben Affleck stars as 29-year-old Gavin Banek, an attorney on the fast track who appears to have everything -- a beautiful wife, a Mercedes and a yacht on the way. But all of that is threatened when his law firm involves him in an ethically questionable case, and Gavin is troubled by moral questions he?s never had to face before. CLIP

For Affleck, the role proved to be the kind of challenge he was waiting for. "A script like this makes you work harder and demands more thought," says the actor. "You?re required to think a little bit more about your own experiences and the emotional weight that you bring to a project. I think it makes me a better actor to continually challenge and push myself, and Roger Michell has been so helpful. Without him, my performance wouldn?t have been half of what it is. He?s been a wonderful gift to this film." Affleck first received the script for "Changing Lanes" while filming "Pearl Harbor" and read it in the midst of that production?s exploding bombs and nonstop action.

Click to enlarge"I was sitting on the deck of an aircraft carrier reading the script, and it was a real page-turner," remembers Affleck. "It struck me as honest in the way that it detailed how people fall apart. What was especially appealing was that it?s different from what I?ve done before. It isn?t about some grand event, it isn?t of historical or political importance, and it isn?t an epic tale. But it is a very personal story of two men coming unraveled. I felt it would afford me the chance to do the kind of acting that I haven?t had the opportunity to do until now."

In developing a backstory for his character, Affleck imagined that Gavin Banek had originally been a very passionate, idealistic law student. But after a few years with such a cutthroat firm as Arnell, Delano and Strauss, his high ideals slowly eroded, and without his realizing it, Gavin?s integrity is compromised. "Institutions can take the humanity away from people," observes Affleck. "Sometimes moral integrity gets sacrificed to keep the wheels turning." CLIP

Click to enlargeAs complex a character as Gavin Banek is, his counterpart, Doyle Gipson, portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson, is equally intriguing. A recovering alcoholic, whose wife is trying to take his children away from him, Doyle is a tormented man who sees what?s most important to him slipping away. In casting the role, Michell was convinced that Jackson could portray the beleaguered Doyle with the empathy the character required.

"Sam is obviously a wonderful, wonderful actor," says Michell. "A lot of his films, like ?Shaft,? ?Jackie Brown? or ?Pulp Fiction,? portray him as very hip and very cool, but this is an uncool role. I mean, this guy Doyle isn?t hip, he?s the reverse of hip. He?s awkward and clumsy. He?s a guy who just doesn?t fit in."

Jackson agrees, adding that he rarely sees scripts depicting characters that are as square as Doyle Gipson is.

Click to enlarge"Doyle is the anonymous one we pass on the street and pay no attention to," Jackson observes. "He?s got the nondescript suit, the ordinary haircut and regular glasses. He?s an everyday Joe whose life is suddenly changed by something outside his control, and I figured it would be interesting to explore that, because I don?t run into that kind of guy that often."

Jackson went on to point out that he believes the average audience member is going to immediately side with either Gavin or Doyle, but that most people will probably lean toward Doyle because Gavin?s high-powered attorney status gives him the means to cause such harm.

"Gavin can do things that Doyle can?t," explains Jackson. "And what he does is pretty malicious. It?s going to have long-term repercussions on Doyle?s life."

Click to enlargeIronically, the one steady voice of reason in Gavin?s disintegrating life, is also the same person who leads him to the man who makes Doyle?s credit disappear. This complex character, portrayed by Toni Collette, is Michelle, Gavin?s colleague and former mistress. CLIP

"Gavin?s life has become very rigid, very black and white," observes Collette, "and Michelle adds color to it. She?s also a reflection of the goodness in Gavin. She?s his conscience, and she spends most of the movie wanting him to be the best person he can be."

Click to enlargeFueling Gavin?s need to succeed at all costs is Delano, his boss and father-in-law, portrayed by Sydney Pollack. Delano is an individual who defines the essence of someone who has succeeded by creating his own highly flexible code of ethics, and surrounding himself with people who are willing to accept his vision of the world. CLIP

"I?d describe Delano as a semi-cynical realist," says Pollack. "He?s a guy who?s ambitious, tough and unsentimental in his view of what is required to be successful in a highly-competitive world. For Delano, morality is a balance sheet. One makes up for infractions by occasionally doing good. He?s got it all worked out for himself, and that?s the kind of law firm he runs. I don?t agree with him," adds Pollack, "but what he says is not necessarily untrue. In fact, I think his philosophy probably matches those of an awful lot of high-achievers in the financial world."

Pollack, best known as the Academy Award?-winning producer-director of "Out of Africa," enjoyed the change of pace of being in front of the camera instead of behind it.

"I don?t act very often, but there?s a good reason to do it," he explains. "Directors get to see a lot of actors, but we never get to watch each other work. So every time I work as an actor, I learn something that?s useful when I direct." As for his experience working for Roger Michell, Pollack has nothing but praise. "Roger?s very precise. He knows exactly what he wants," says Pollack. "He?s also open to suggestion, but has very clear ideas of his own, and I enjoy that. You feel his confidence."

As for his experience working for Roger Michell, Pollack has nothing but praise. "Roger?s very precise. He knows exactly what he wants," says Pollack. "He?s also open to suggestion, but has very clear ideas of his own, and I enjoy that. You feel his confidence."


Pastor, Artesia Christian Church, Artesia, CA

Darrel has an incredible love and interest in the cinematic arts. His reviews usually include independent and significantly important film. Some of his reviews: Chocolat, Dancer in the Dark, Faithless, Finding Forrester, Memento, O Brother Where art Thou, Pollock, Quills, Shadow of a Vampire, Widow of St Pierre, Jump Tomorrow, Tortilla Soup, Go Tiger, Life As a House, The Business of Strangers, The Man Who Wasn't There, A Beautiful Mind, In the Bedroom, Shipping News, Amelie, I Am Sam, Rollerball, Monster's Ball, Iris, Kissing Jessica Stein, Changing Lane

There is so much familiar about this movie. I know! I've seen it before. I saw it ten years ago when Los Angeles erupted in riots. I saw it in the Balkans. I saw it just last night in news stories about Israelis and Palestinians. I saw it in the anger that flared up and flashed out following September 11 and is still in operation in the war.

Click to enlargeOver and over Gavin and Doyle have the opportunity to do the right thing, to bring all the retaliation to an end. They keep feeling remorse over the things they've done. They try to undo them, but, alas, so many things we do can never be undone.

The two characters act out Lex Talionis, the law of retaliation that goes back at least to the Code of Hammurabi and is reflected in the biblical law codes. That law of retaliation says "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." It was designed to limit the payback for wrongdoing to an equal injury. But Doyle and Gavin allow their anger to keep pushing them to get one more shot in on the other. They know better in their hearts, but they are letting their anger rule them.

Mohandas Gandhi spoke of the law of retaliation. He said, "The old eye for an eye philosophy ends up leaving everybody blind." Doyle and Gavin come very close to proving that point by themselves.

Click to enlargeSigns of forgiveness keep showing up in the movie, but the characters seem to be oblivious to them. The story takes place on Good Friday, the day in which God reconciled the world to Godself. But where is the reconciliation? Gavin wanders into a church in the midst of a Good Friday service as the priest intones about the wood of the cross on which hung the savior of the world. Where is the savior of these two? Gavin even sits in the confessional, but refuses to either seek forgiveness or recognize his need to forgive. As Doyle speaks with his ex-wife in an empty apartment, the camera looks past them into a closet that is empty of all but a picture of Jesus.

These are reminders of the need and reality of forgiveness. In Christ, the law of retaliation is brought to an end. Jesus taught, "You have heard that it was said, 'an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, do not resist the evildoer. But if someone strike you on the right cheek, turn the other also." In the cross we see the most perfect statement of God's grace that does not require punishment and repayment for our sins, but rather sets aside the wrong we have done.

Click to enlargeChanging Lanes is often very cynical, especially in its portrayal of lawyers. But it is also somewhat cynical in its portrayal of a humanity that keeps trying to get someone back. We recognize ourselves in these two -- not their extreme, but their wanting to lash out at someone who has done something, even if it is that they lashed out at what we have done.

There is some hope at the end of the movie that these two have been changed by this day. They will move on, but they have tired of all this retaliation. They want the next thing they do to be the right thing.

We can hope that such is possible. Who will be the first to abandon the law of retaliation? Israel or Hamas? Crips or Bloods? You or your neighbor?

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