Directed by Michael Mann with writing by Stuart Beattie, this 2004 stars Tom Cruise, Jamie Foxx, Jada Pinkett-Smith and Mark Ruffalo. It has a runtime of about 2 hours and is rated-R due it’s violence and language. Made with a budget of $65 million this film became a commercial success grossed over $220 million at the box office. Since then it has gone on to gain cult success too with many of the plaudits complimenting the acting by Cruise and Foxx, and the character development being shown off.
LA cab driver Max drops off one customer picks up another. During the course of the last ride he had developed a bond with the customer who turned out to be a US Justice Department prosecutor. His next customer turns out to be equally interesting; Vincent, a property developer who wants to hire him for the night for a flat fee of $600 with an additional $100 if he gets to the airport on time. Vincent claims to be in the city for one night only to close some deals and get some signatures, as soon as he’s done he’ll be leaving. With Max dreaming about one day having a limousine business he reluctantly takes the deal on, but at the first stop it becomes clear that Vincent isn’t all he claims to be. After a body crashes out the top floor window of an apartment and hits the cabbies roof Vincent confesses to being a hit-man. With Max knowing this he is trapped into completing the fair or losing his life. Max tries his hardest to talk his way out of the dilemma, but with the FBI and LAPD on his trail it’s becoming more difficult, even more so with hit-man Vincent learning all about Max’s life. With the discovery of the last targets, Max feels he is forced into action to change the outcome of the night.
This is an interesting and action packed film which presents some really good performances from its leads. Tom Cruise is as far away from the all-American good guy that you can get as ruthless hit-man Vincent. He is cold and callously menacing and really projects an authentic bad guy performance. Jamie Foxx goes from easy going and cool to show his characters truth of bewilderment and impotence, before going full circle and learning to stand up for himself rather than let life drift him by. Both actors characters work wonderfully together and they really share some good screen time and dialogue. They are given a script which, while it appears simple enough, is transformed due to weight of delivery given to it. The pace of the film is set fairly early on, and as soon as the ride starts it is a genuine roller-coaster – there are more calm moments where the characters are sat down and talking; and then the pace shifts up as the roller-coaster descends a summit and people are being killed on-screen. Collateral is the first feature film to use Viper FilmStream High-Definition Cameras, which have added a uniquely beautiful look to the film; it feels both cleaner and dirtier at the same time. Sound wise the film is sparce till later on the film so that dialogue shines through. Later however the score reflects the film fantastically; starting with soothing music, riding through more chaotic jazz, hitting banging club music later on, until there is louder and faster music at the climax of the film to really finish things off.
I really enjoyed this film. I wasn’t sure that I would but as soon as I sat down to it I was drawn in with intrigue, which quickly turned to suspense as the characters started to develop. I liked the way the film came full circle on itself with Jada Pinkett-Smith’s character, while it was slightly predictable it was still a fun ride getting there and seeing how it would happen. The acting in this film is as good as any I have seen and credit must go to Cruise and Foxx for the characters they brought to life – especially Cruise who usually brings us all-American hero’s but has somehow given us a cold machine of a bad guy hit-man.
I have to be honest and while I have been generally complimentary about the film there are a few negatives too – there are some moments that are there for show or just for the way they sound on film. Some of the symbolism that Mann drives towards in creating his vision aren’t always clear to the entire audience. Some of the things that Vincent let’s happen are sloppy for a trained and seasoned hit-man, and Max’s character sometimes let’s himself walk into obvious set-ups. The ending of the film isn’t as strong as it could be and things kind of get wrapped up quickly just to end the film; the Ruffalo getting shot; LAPD and the FBI kind of ending their pursuit; Max being able to take down a trained assassin so easily.
Putting these things aside though this film is still a gritty and tense ride which is enjoyable to its audience. I am happy to recommend this film as a good way to pass a few hours; it’s engaging and fun; it looks good and there score is great; and Cruise/ Foxx and in fact the rest of the cast too, give great performances.