Max Durocher (Jamie Foxx) is a night-shift cab driver in Los Angeles. One night, he picks up a passenger named Vincent (Tom Cruise) who seems like another ordinary passenger. But when he drops Vincent off at his location and waits for him as asked, a body falls on his cab, and it becomes clear that Vincent is actually a hitman, and he’s got four more stops to make. Max is forced to drive Vincent around the City of L.A., unsure if he’ll live to see sunrise.
Collateral is one of those rare surprising movies that come around every so often: a movie that can balance character, action and dialogue at the same time. The concept of the movie seems pretty straight forward but it also has many complex ideas that are put into play. This movie isn’t quite an action movie, even though it has action in it, it’s more of a thriller. Whenever there aren’t any action scenes, the dialogue has to carry the movie. Fortunately, the dialogue between characters is well written. The two main characters are the most developed in the movie and are the most interesting. Like I said earlier on, this is not an action movie, so a lot of the time you will be hearing Max and Vincent talk but the action scenes are also placed in the right times. The story takes quite a few twists and turns. The film mostly follows Foxx’s character and occasionally follows Mark Ruffalo who plays a detective investigating the murders happening.
Jamie Foxx is really good in this movie. This movie and Ray (2004) helped him get more noticed and his performance here rightfully earned him an Oscar Nomination for Best Supporting Actor (The same year he won for Best Actor for Ray). The most surprising performance in this movie came from Tom Cruise. It’s rare to find Tom Cruise in the role of the antagonist of a movie, with the possible exception of Interview with the Vampire (1994). This truly is Cruise’s best performance and is quite possibly the most fascinating character he has played. In his conversations with Max, hints of some of his past are implied, instead of just telling us, which allows the audience to speculate who he really is. Even some of the supporting cast like Jada Pinkett-Smith and Mark Ruffalo are really good, for what little amounts of scenes they were in.
If you watch this movie, you will notice that the look is quite different to most movies. One of the best things about Michael Mann as a director is that he can make a movie look incredible. The city of LA looks beautiful under his direction and gives it a presence, and almost makes it a third character to Foxx and Cruise’s. Arguably the best filmed sequence is the one taking place inside a night club. He gets to play with a lot of lighting effects and it seems to flow smoothly. It there’s one thing I can say about the cinematography in this film, it’s that it flows and it never seems abrupt. The sound effects are very realistic, Michael Mann is known for having gunshot sound effects louder than most action movies such as movies as Heat and Public Enemies. The soundtrack is picked out well and each song is perfect for the moment. It goes from Green Car Motel, to Audioslave, to music composed by James Newton Howard and so on. All of these things combine to make the film seem almost dreamlike and wondrous, as well as puncturing the moments with the realistic gunshots.
Collateral works as both as a suspenseful thriller and a character study. From the unique style to the fantastic acting from everyone, this makes a movie that is worth watching. A truly underrated and overlooked film, it deserves more attention than it has received. It is more of a thriller than an action flick but still is very entertaining as either, along with being an investing watch.