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Review: Collateral

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Tom Cruise in CollateralI have not yet read any reviews of Collateral so you’re getting this fresh, without any subconscious influences concerning what others are saying, and I’ll say this: Collateral has… weight.

By that I don’t mean that it’s heavy, but that it feels like it has substance, it draws your attention. Sure, that’s what a movie is supposed to do (dramas, anyway) but how many times have you sat through a film that feels more like the Cliffs Notes version of a movie? Kind of like “Movie-Lite”? That’s certainly not the case here.

The film opens with the Dreamworks and Paramount logos in black and white, with the opening scene of the movie shot extremely grainy, but in color. I don’t really understand the reason for that… maybe someone smarter than me has it in their review. In any case Vincent, our grey-haired assassin (Tom Cruise) bumps into an unknown (to us) person (Jason Stathom who you may recognize from the recent film The Transporter). They intentionally switch suitcases and part ways. I had really hoped that Stathom would turn up in the movie later, but that’s the last we see of him.

You probably know the basic story by now: Max the cabdriver (Jamie Foxx) is unlucky enough to pick up Vincent the paid assassin, who happens to have a number of jobs to do one night and wants Max to be the chauffer for the evening.

Before picking up Vincent, Max picks up extremely attractive customer Annie (Jada Pinkett Smith) as a fare, and they have time to connect during the drive. She’s a prosecutor and he’s a cabbie with plans to open up his own limo business. Max turns out to be intuitive and soft-spoken, and by the end of the ride there’s a connection there.

Cut to Vincent almost not getting in Max’s cab while Max daydreams about Annie. Even though I knew what was to come, some part of me was hoping that Vincent would not get in Max’s cab, but of course he does. Vincent passes himself off as a real estate investor who needs to get papers signed by five clients all across town that night and offers Max double what he would normally earn for a full night’s work.

Things get ugly right off the bat as the first assassination does not quite go according to plan and Max finds out about it (to say the least!). Vincent’s idea was that Max would never know, but it doesn’t phase him: he “adapts, evolves” and keeps the situation in hand. So from there it’s all about Max not wanting to be a party to this yet not being able to get away, all the while trying to figure out how to stop Vincent.

I can see why Cruise chose to do this film: Vincent is not a caricatured “bad guy”. Sure, he’s a sociopath, but he has moments where he shows he’s got a tiny bit of humanity left when he helps out Max on more than one occasion. He also has his own personal Nietzschean philosophy which he seems to be eager to share. His point of view is very defeatist, yet pragmatic, and he actually brings some enlightenment to Max, although not in the manner he intended. Cruise’s Vincent is actually quite personable until he starts filling you with bullet holes. He slips into the role quite comfortably, and I never for a moment thought “Hey, that’s Tom Cruise, he’s supposed to be the good guy”.

Foxx was also effective as a mellow guy who just doesn’t want any trouble, but who is pushed further and further and is willing to step beyond his personality when he sees that the situation is not going to get better any time soon. He’s certainly come a long way from In Living Color, and he’s much more believable in a serious role than say, Jim Carrey, who in contrast seems to ooze sincerity to the point that it doesn’t look sincere.

The movie worked well, giving us time to get to know the characters with extended scenes, instead of cutting back and forth in a choppy manner to indicate things happening simultaenously. There is more than one way to show that, and it was done well here, so props to the editor. However if you’re an adrenaline junkie who walks out of a movie thinking it was lame because the music wasn’t blaring and the movie wasn’t a two hour long action sequence, you might be disappointed.

Michael Mann has done well once again, and seems to be on the short list of consistently good directors. The movie probably could have lost about 3 or 4 minutes about 3/4 of the way through to pick up the pacing, but beyond that, it is a great film.

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About Vic

  • visualsimplicity

    I enjoyed this film too. Tom Cruise was quite menacing sometimes as a villian, especially at the moment that he jumped onto the train. He pulled it off quite well.

    I also loved how a lot of things just happened through pure chance. As you mentioned, the whole situation could have been avoided if he had daydreamed a little longer, or if Vincent hadn’t heard him call out. A fleeting moment was all it took. Such is life.

    It goes full circle very well too.

  • Vic

    Yup. There was that one big coincidence, but hey, if the overall movie is well done I can cut it some slack here and there.


  • visualsimplicity

    Well, I didn’t mean the big coincidence as the full circle, that was sort of predictable and a tad weak, but anyway. I actually meant the train thing, if you know what I mean. Now that was well done.

  • Vic

    Oh! Yes. Classic. :-)


  • Triniman


    The premise sounds pretty dull, doesn’t it? Tom Cruise plays a hit man who coerces a cab driver to drive him around LA to knock off five people. Jamie Foxx portrays the reluctant cab driver. Director Michael Mann proves that a compelling drama doesn’t require an excess in plot, car chases or violence or humour. Much of the film takes place in the cab with Cruise and Foxx exchanging philosophies of life, goals and dreams. Foxx, a cabbie for 12 years, wants to save up to open a limo service. Cruise is more enigmatic about his past, but instead is a relentless, cold-blooded assassin. Still, he’s not one-dimensional at all.

    Cruise is excellent as the laser-focused killer with taste. Witness the scene in the jazz club to see how good his taste in music is. He’s not cocky like the mastermind bad guy in the first Die Hard, but he is cool, confident and obviously emotionally detached from his victims. He doesn’t care who they are since he’s just doing his job. He also doesn’t flash the million-dollar Cruise movie star smile.

    Jamie Foxx also performs well as the uncomfortable cabbie counterpoint to the Cruise character. He’s just your average joe hoping to get ahead in life but obviously taking a long time to get there, just like most people.

    What’s refreshing about this film is that it doesn’t scatter the character development over too many players. The lack of comedic lines also reinforces the grittiness of the script. Michael Mann has produced a mostly believable thriller, that makes the competition look like cartoons for adults.

    Sure, there are stretches in the storyline but so long as you’re prepared to gloss over them, this is a fine film. Collateral is also much better than Cruise’s last film, the pretensioulsy bloated The Last Samurai. Anyone looking for a non-stop action film or a “Lethal Weapon”-type film should look elsewhere.

    Review by Triniman.

  • Vic

    Hey Triniman, your comment isn’t supposed to be better than my review. 😉

    Nicely done.


  • Triniman

    Sorry, Vic! I wasn’t sure if I should have posted that review or not. I try to review one new film a week, just for fun.

    I enjoyed your review, by the way.


  • Vic

    Hey man, I was just kidding. :-) Great review… you should repost it as a blog entry.

    Best regards,


  • Mark

    * What was the deal with the fox in the road ?

    * Was it really a big coincidence in the end or in the beginning? ie. Wasnt Vincent coming out of the same building in the beginning of the movie (with keypass and all) as the one on his final stop??