Directed by: Michael Mann
Starring: Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx
Cinematography by: Dion Beebe and Paul Cameron
Collateral is a grungy thriller, which centers around the collision of two characters, Vincent (Tom Cruise) a hired killer for the mob and Max (Jammie Foxx) , a dedicated and diligent taxi driver. Upon hailing Max’s cab one night in LA, Vincent commences a 5 stop tour of city, heartlessly executing his targets that are due to testify against his employers. Max is caught up in the nightmare as the unwilling getaway driver for Vincent’s duties. Max gets personally involved when he learns that Vincent’s final target for the night is Max’s client directly before Vincent, the prosecutor of the case who exchanged business cards with Max with the hope of a future encounter.
The story of Collateral is fairly straightforward. There’s not really any backstory to the characters as most of the drama takes place within the taxi itself as Max drives Vincent around the streets LA – trying to understand who he is and why he does what he does. However despite the simplicity and somewhat ‘2D’ approach to the plot and characters, the script and direction by Michael Mann carry the film and keep the viewer intrigued throughout. The film captures the nightmarish reality of the saga for Max. He’s a cab driver who wants to get home at the end of his long nightshift and finds himself aiding and abetting a violent and dangerous criminal – under duress.
The performances and characters in Collateral are the real highlights. Personally I don’t enjoy Tom Cruise. I find him to be a product of the Hollywood movie star factory that has created a star with very little depth. However, in Collateral he does play the role of a heartless, cold and detached hit man that markets his abilities to the highest bidder. Cruise’s character is a bit of an anomaly which adds interest to the interaction between Vincent and Max. Although he’s detached and brutal in his violence, he’s interested and intrigued with Max. Their conversations revolve around how long Max has been driving, what his dreams are and whether he’ll call the lady who left her business card (the prosecutor). However, Cruise does seem to click into cheesy action star during the chase scenes towards the end. In these moments it became quite apparent that we are watching the ‘great Tom Cruise’ chase a man through the streets. Personally I feel that he loses his believability in these moments.
Whilst Tom Cruise may be the headlining star in the film, the headliner performance comes from Jamie Foxx. Max is a tired taxi driver, hoping to one day fulfill his dreams of owning his own luxury limo service. On this particular night he just happens to be the wrong guy in the wrong place at the wrong time. Foxx’s performance draws the audience in and creates a feeling of empathy and frustration on his behalf. The uncertainty and unpredictability with which Vincent acts leaves one feeling nervous for Max’s safety. Foxx performs the role with such ease and sincerity whilst creating a character that is likable for the audience.
An interesting fact about the film is that it was one of the first Hollywood blockbusters to be filmed in digital format as opposed to film. This has a distinct effect on the film, coupled with the style and cinematography that Michael Mann as director has chosen to adopt. The film feels very ‘handheld’ and voyeuristic. You feel as though you are in the cab with the two men, witnessing first hand what’s unfolding. There’s a gritty, grungy characteristic to the film which isn’t seen on other Hollywood blockbusters. Whilst I didn’t enjoy it, I do appreciate it. I like it when a director utilizes the tools of filmmaking to help tell the story. Though not my preferred style, Collateral does have a distinct look and feel which carries the story and emotion of the film nicely. Collateral is a film worth watching – not because it’s brilliant – it’s far from that, but because it is somewhat fresh and interesting. Would I watch it again? Perhaps, but not very quickly. Despite the somewhat lackluster plot line and at times dubious performance by Cruise, Collateral does have something to offer in the tension and interpersonal conflict between two great characters.
Quality Rating 68%