Forced, heavy-handed and overdone, Crossing Over gets so wrapped up in its quest for topical resonance that it forgets some of the basics of telling a good narrative. From its paint-by-numbers quality to the banality of presenting its subject matter, this misconceived immigration drama is an incompetent way of mounting a multi-character piece.
Amidst the fact that this seemingly well-intentioned drama tackles realistic issues about U.S. immigration policies, the provocative points about the country’s attitude towards migrants, and the horrors of getting naturalized, it lacks the needed subtlety and eloquence for it to succeed. Too many of the hurdles in the story feel like a product of a writer’s imagination than of real-life experiences. Its message is undermined by its cardboard characters and clunky script. And while the film certainly has some viable stance that can have a large number of people around the world relating to it, its crisscrossing stories, heavy ironies, and even heavier moralizing just don’t work. It’s more like a muddle of good liberal intentions that is loosely anchored to a mass of pure Hollywood triteness.
This illegal immigration drama is timely and well-intentioned; however, it is too contrived and schematic to generate good enough credibility. It’s a serious film that offers some pretty good performances, but their sheer number dilutes their power. All these leave the movie in a bit of a mess in its own game of sex, violence, betrayal, and diminished nobility of the tradition of naturalized citizenship.
Crossing Over is a blend of thriller and social drama utilized in a hokum kind of way. Being a politically-minded ensemble piece as it is, its multi-character canvas about immigrants of varying nationalities struggling to achieve legal status in America really falters with a wobbly screenplay and loose direction. It’s somewhat unbalanced with its competing storylines. Its lapses into sentimentality are overkill. It mainly strains, with too many characters, too many story strands, and too much of an effort to cover the bases. The focus on these immigrant dreamers runs into thematic banality because the film’s treatment is filled with much crass manipulation. The characters are stretched thin with only the most overstuffed dialogue to express themselves. And it primarily dictates a general air of dull preachiness. The story is improperly fleshed out through stereotypical characters and overly structured sub-stories that keep crossing and bumping into each other.
The camera work, editing, and the entire means of storytelling have that very amateurish feel to it. It’s very choppy. It’s like entire reels have been cut for whatever weird reason. Tied together with endless, flattening shots of American homes, highways, and establishments, it may be sporadically provocative given its theme and subject matter, but it is also often convoluted and dull with undercooked messages and ideas. And as a contrived saga with subplots showcasing immigration woes of all sorts, its markedly unimaginative sense of cinematic storytelling often offers boring moments with little new or insightful to add to the debate on the underlying politics and promise of opportunities, unlimited opportunities in the U.S.A. – as mentioned by the judge during the oath-taking ceremony for the newly naturalized Americans.
Amidst its unsuccessful mounting, director Wayne Kramer somehow deserves credit for taking on the touchy subject. The presented issues don’t seem pretentious, only the didactic but ineffective way in telling the story is. Somehow, in some way, it is still an interesting failure – a movie that at least strives to be about something with a certain heart and sincerity to its subject matter, even though it entangles itself too much that it fails to become a good cinematic offer.
The lack of subtlety in its multi-stranded storytelling makes Crossing Over an overwrought harangue about the gates of illegal immigration. It spoils the supposed empathy for its subject and theme. The surfeit of coincidences weaving the characters together tries to keep the action unified as an anthropological melodrama. However, its intensity doesn’t live up to its very intentions as the sledgehammer approach becomes mostly off-putting and risible.
The film has a few moments of poignancy and engaging acting especially with the outstanding performance of Summer Bishil as Taslima Jahangir. Her acting moment is just bull’s-eye to the heart’s core – a very impressive scene that really stands out from a movie filled with utter mediocrity.
Crossing Over would have made for a perfectly serviceable film. Yet, it merely provides hysterical little bits of what is already given. You get what the filmmakers are trying to say about immigration and nationalism, but everything is laid down in an overly substantial form that seems mistreated to deliver more yawns than moral, political, and intellectual stimulation. And even with famed names as Harrison Ford as Max Brogan, Ashley Judd as Denise Frankel, Jim Sturgess as Gavin Kossef, Cliff Curtis as Hamid Baraheri, Ray Liotta as Cole Frankel, among other names, this issue-oriented movie is one big disappointment.