JT Film Review

116 – Changing Lanes (2002)

Changing Lanes REVIEW

4.5/5 stars

Director – Roger Michell

Cast – Ben Affleck, Samuel Jackson, Toni Collette, Sydney Pollack, William Hurt, Amanda Peet


I have seen Changing Lanes in more discount DVD bins than almost any other movie, I swear. It’s everywhere. This is a blessing and a curse. On the one hand it doesn’t seem like many people are watching it, but on the other hand it should be fairly easy for you to pick up a copy, which I highly recommend you do.

The movie is about a young idealistic lawyer (they’re everywhere, aren’t they) played by Affleck  and a down on his luck recovering alcoholic, played by Jackson. They get into a fender-bender while each on their way to a court dates. Jackson’s car comes off the worst, and when Affleck refuses to give him a ride, Jackson threatens to destroy a valuable document that Affleck left at the side of the road. This escalates into a series of increasingly harmful back-and-forth jabs between the two, going from one tense and damaging situation to another.

There are two ways to look at the movie. First you can look at it as it is billed, a tense legal-type thriller. The movie to some degree is successful as such, but I don’t think that is the point of the movie. If seen as a thriller, Changing Lanes is undermined by its rather over-the-top premise. I can’t say it really seems probable that a young lawyers assistant would be on first name basis with a mysterious “hacker” (use that word in the movies and you can get away with anything) who can delete bank records and alter credit ratings, etc.

The best way to look at the movie is, quite simply,  as a morality play, or a cautionary tale. If seen in this way the heightened emotions and over the top events make sense. It would fit in well with an Aesop’s Fable, that sort of thing. Changing Lanes is not meant to be very realistic, and so we can excuse its occasional extravagance.

The acting throughout is top-notch, with reliable character actors like Richard Jenkins providing ample support for stars like Affleck (an under-rated talent who is finally coming into his own with Gone Baby, Gone and The Town) and Samuel L. Jackson. Sydney Pollack also appears in a significant role. I always like seeing him; if you see Pollack in a film it is a good indication that it is of good quality. That is definitely the case here.


Changing Lanes is quite effective as a thriller if you want to take it on that level. I think it is much more effective when seen as a cautionary tale about human foibles, but there is definitely room for both. The acting is very good, and the wonderful direction keeps us interested without going too overboard. Changing Lanes was quite a surprise for me, hopefully others will find it so.



“Changing Lanes” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia



January 12, 2011 - Posted by | 4.5 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Drama, Year - 2000-2009 | , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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