Collateral review by Peter Larkin

Michael Mann’s Collateral (2004) (15s) 1hr 57mins

Stars: Tom Cruise, Jamie Foxx, Jada Pinkett Smith.

According to Michael Mann, Collateral takes place in Los Angeles on the night of the 24th to 25th January 2004 from 6.30pm to 5.40am. It is crime thriller and character study about two men with very different philosophies who meet by chance. In the opening shot we Vincent (Tom Cruise with grey hair would you believe) He is a hit man who is smooth and defiant. He assigned to make several hits in LA that night. Max (Jamie Foxx) is taxi driver, an everyday man struggling to set up his own limousine business. Hard working lawyer Annie (Jada Pinkett Smith) is driven to her office by Max. They have an intimate conversation and she gives her number. A few blocks away, Vincent hails Max’s cab and says that he will give Max $600 to be driven around LA for the night. Max hesitates sternly but agrees on the basis that he needs that extra money. Max has no idea what to expect for a having a grey haired, trigger happy Cruise as a passenger. It is not long until Detective Fanning (Mark Ruffalo) is on their trail as well as FBI operative Pedrosa (Bruce McGill) who is surveillance of Felix (Javier Bardem) and his nightclub. Felix is uptight boss of Vincent. The two have only met through contacts.

Mann’s emphasis on character as well as action fits like a glove. It’s what the film deserves, you have two of the biggest actors in Hollywood, whose talents don’t go to waste. There are superb scenes between Cruise and Foxx speaking very intriguingly well written dialogue. Vincent mentions his feeling of solidarity in LA, even with its seventy million people and the fifth largest economy. The use of soundtrack from Miles Davis, Paul Oakfield and Audioslave suits the film in a tempo like fashion.

Cruise shows us rare character for his career. It is without a doubt one of his very best performances. Jamie Foxx was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor he lost to Morgan Freeman in Million Dollar Baby (2004) Foxx won Best Leading Actor that night for his flawless portrayal of Ray Charles in Ray (2004) Foxx is revelation in his performance. Cruise also shows us like in Magnolia (1999) how he can portray a character that is not in any way a hero, he is man who just lives on the edge. It is not that Vincent isn’t similar to his roles; it’s Cruise’s human element in Vincent that is acclaimed as rare character. Not the mention the fact the he is the bad guy.

This is the first major film to shot with a Viper Film Stream High-Definition Camera. There is a single camera shot of remarkable expertise it shows Vincent on a top floor of building and Max on the ground outside in the background. Dion Beebe and Paul Cameron’s cinematography was overlooked by the Academy. It did, however, win the BAFTA that year.

Michael Mann is now stranger to the night vision of down Los Angeles. Collateral is an achievement because of its important observation of its characters. The film’s best moments are quiet moments of conversations between Vincent and Max.

There are some minor flaws, which I can’t reveal. But as Michael Phillips of The Chicago Tribune said recently in his review of Public Enemies (2009) “You don’t go to a Michael Mann movie for realism” On that basis, I accept all flaws.

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