Tom Cruise, Jamie Foxx, Jada Pinkett Smith, Mark Ruffalo, Peter Berg, Bruce McGill, Irma P. Hall, Barry Shabaka Henley, Javier Bardem, Emilio Rivera
R (For violence and language)
Just when everything appears to be going well, a cab driver’s fare teaches him valuable lessons about what he has and hasn’t done with his life in Collateral.
Max (Jamie Foxx) thought he had it made. He’d been driving a taxi for several years and he’s on track to start up his own limo company. Things, however, are about to take an unexpected and dangerous turn. Dropping off his latest fare, a beautiful woman named Annie (Jada Pinkett Smith), Max picks up a man whose profession he will soon learn.
Vincent (Tom Cruise) is a hired hitman rubbing out persons on a list of drug trial witnesses. He’s decided to take Max on as a cabbie who knows his way around town. Offering him a six hundred dollar tip, Max takes Vincent up on the offer and they are soon on their way to Vincent’s first “appointment”.
There are six individuals on the list and with each one, we expect to see the same tired set up for each, but director Michael Mann and screenwriter Stuart Beattie manage to create new and intriguing scenes for each hit. Mann’s hand is felt throughout as the audience slowly learns more about each man and they about each other.
The pace is metered and deliberate, scenes that one might expect to be lengthy are punctuated by brilliant dialogue from Beattie’s pen. The two work so marvelously together that, had the conclusion not felt rushed and clipped, they would have made Collateral the best film of its generation.
Two aspects of the film elevate the quality of the film. The first is the talent in front of the camera. Pinkett Smith is quite good but the true stars of the show are fantastic. Foxx gives the type of dramatic performance that Damon Wayans gave in Requiem for a Dream. He’s a primarily comedic actor with no real dramatic pedigree and great potential who takes on a role so gritty and real that it quashes any question of his talent. Foxx has plenty of rich characterization to work with and succeeds dramatically.
The other lead of Collateral gives the film’s finest performance. Five years ago, had anyone suggested Cruise pick up a villainous role, many would have laughed and signaled the choice as the end of his career. Now, we find Cruise having matured into a tour-de-force talent. Giving his second best performance ever just behind Magnolia , Cruise creates a hitman that we can love and loathe simultaneously. His performance leaves little to the imagination and, even in scenes where his notorious charming smile comes through, it’s only a fleeting glimpse of those roles he’s put behind him.
Titling a film has become a rather mundane task. Most films choose titles that are neither enlightening, nor original and often conjure up images of the visible subject of the film. Collateral uses a title that has numerous meanings and each of them comment on the psychological and physical realities in which Max and Vincent participate. Max uses his life as collateral for a dream that he may never realize. Max and Vincent converse about their lives in a manner that the damage they cause upon one another is lasting.
Collateral is the type of film that viewers will enjoy if they can bring themselves to the theater. The topic is indelibly morose; however, the underlying themes of hope and self-realization are easily identifiable and applicable if one listens to what the characters say and doesn’t focus solely on the fortunately-limited action.
August 26, 2004