156. Changing Lanes

★★★½

WOW. Ben Affleck looks like he’s 12 years old in this movie. Changing Lanes came out in 2002, five years after Good Will Hunting, but Affleck still looks older back then than he did in 2002! And Samuel L. Jackson looks older in this movie than he does in the Marvel movies!

I’m so taken aback by their appearances because Changing Lanes is truly a time capsule of a movie, a brief, forgotten moment in cinematic history where a stellar cast came together to tell a gripping morality play set in New York City. Affleck plays a hot shot lawyer who gets into a car wreck with Jackson’s divorced and downtrodden single dad. Affleck leaves him in dire straits on the highway. This kickstarts a series of malevolent acts each man pulls on the other, desperately trying to one-up each other even after they’ve forgotten why they’re fighting for in the first place. Jackson’s former wife tells him he’s addicted to chaos. She’s right, but so is Affleck.

The film often teeters near the point of being hokey or melodramatic, but thankfully never crosses that threshold where we can no longer take it seriously. The movie builds and builds with each unforgivable act, every lapse of morality, serving as a sturdy dramatic building block into making a tense, thought-provoking modern masterpiece. Affleck and Jackson become better men throughout their experiences, but the ultimate tragedy is that this same scenario will befall someone else, where chaos and rage will ultimately triumph over rationality, and they’ll be able to do nothing but crash and burn.

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