Collateral - A Nightmarish Thrill Ride

                           You might not often come across poetry in crime/suspense thrillers. Director Michael Mann always guarantees a poetical nature to his thrillers. He takes a ordinary story and turns it into something outstanding. His magic doesn't just extend to his crime dramas--"Thief," "Manhuner," "Heat," "Collateral," "Public Enemies"--but also to his other dramatic films as well--"The Insider," "Ali," "The Last of the Mohicans." He missed out his trick only with the source material of "Miami Vice." Mann's movies are not about what happens; it's about the people to whom things happen. For example, he can turn a heist movie into a meaty, character-driven tour de force in "Heat."

                             With "Collateral" (2004) he uses the sprawling city of Los Angeles and two men, thrown together by chance -- who spend one night in a maelstrom of tension, violence -- as his lead characters. Snappy dialogues and a cool Tom Cruise are the perfect elements for this groundbreaking thriller. It might seem simple, cliched thriller at the surface, but at it's heart, it's a allegory which pits nihilism against optimistic humanism.

        Max (Jamie Foxx) is a cab driver, who views his work as a 'part-time job, although he is been driving the cab for twelve years. His dream is to start a limousine company but has been unable to muster the courage to take the leap as an entrepreneur.He usually blabs all these things to his customers -- like his first ride of that evening, Annie (Jada Pinkett Smith), who turns out to be a prosecutor facing an all-night session preparing for a major case in the morning.At the end of the ride, she likes his soft-spoken manner and sincerity and gives him her business card.

              Vincent (Tom Cruise) is the next person to enter the cab. He is dressed in a silver-gray suit with matching spiky hair and looks intense, who offers six hundred dollars to be his personal driver for the night. Vincent's profession is killing people. When a corpse falls onto the hood of his cab, at the first stop, Max learns that his passenger has no intention of finding another ride, and if he wants to stay alive, his only choice is to satisfy his customer. Then starts a battle of wits and wills; the go-getting cold-blooded killer and all-talk common man travel and clash, while bodies pile up in the beautifully-shot L.A.

                 Tom Cruise, often known for his romantic endeavors and spy thrillers, breaks all the typecasts with his role of a callous sociopath. At many sequences in the film, Vincent bursts over all obstacles -- people, furniture -- to get to his prey, and Cruise makes you believe in Vincent's satanic focus. He changes convincingly from a recognizably human character to a superman gone berserk. Curise's performance also makes us overlook the incredibly nuanced performance of Foxx. He's entirely credible as the reserved, silent dreamer. When visiting his hospital-ridden mother (Irma P. Hall) Max says that he drives limousines filled with Hollywood stars; so, like Vincent, he wears a mask and has lies of his own. Yet, he is optimistic, unlike Vincent, which makes the philosophical duel more intriguing. This impeccable characterization lingers in every frame of the movie and emerges alive to a point of threshold in the film's final moments. 

                     Collateral is filled with luminous supporting performances -- Mark Ruffalo as an lone undercover detective, Jada Pinkett Smith as the beautiful lawyer and women in distress, and Javier Bardem as a cartel kingpin with a lethal presence. Director Michael Mann builds suspense immaculately and knows how to manipulate tensions. The tension and suspense in "Collateral" turns on desperation, character and situation, as opposed to firepower, and muscle. Filming in high-definition digital video enables Mann to vividly evoke the mysteries of the night in a place where strangers pass each other in their speeding cars and where men and women desperate for some pleasure gather in clubs to numb themselves in frenzied dancing and drinking. 

Michael Mann
                    The screenplay by Stuart Beettie seems very smart for a plot like this. Vincent after killing a guy: "Max, six billion people on the planet, you're getting bent out of shape cause of one fat guy. What do you care? Have you ever heard of Rwanda? Well, tens of thousands killed before sundown. Nobody's killed people that fast since Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Did you bat an eye, Max? Did you join Amnesty International, Oxfam, Save the Whales, Greenpeace, or something? No. I off one fat Angelino and you throw a hissy fit" -- one of the several in Beattie's script, which manages to be funny without being flippant. 

                    Collateral might not be a masterpiece like "Heat", but it's a welcome change-of-pace for a dramatic thriller. It shows us how a director's and stars skill can transform a movie, which otherwise might have been a routine action thriller. The atmosphere and the characters define Collateral, but the bottom line is that there are times when style can become substance, and this is one of them.

                    Watch the intelligent character piece "Collateral," because Cruise, Foxx, and Mann's direction assures us that boredom and disinterest will stay at bay.   


 Collateral - IMDb


Shareef S M A said...

Tom Cruise's performance is too awesome.. You can watch this one for him alone for number of times.. While heroes here want to appear young, Tom reportedly dyed his hair to make him look a bit older.. Dedication it is..!! Loved this film..

And as usual superb review Arun ji.. need your contact details. Shall i get it?

Meoww said...

I have seen this one! White-haired Tom Cruise. Good one.

Arun Kumar said...

@Shareef S M A, Thanks for the comment. Give me your mail Id.

@Meoww, Thanks for the comment.

Vinay said...

Nice writings

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Haricharan Pudipeddi said...

I liked this movie for Tom. It was different to see him in a grey role. Good review btw

ஹாலிவுட்ரசிகன் said...

Awesome thriller!!

Shareef S M A said...


Mithil said...

great review. Loved the chemistry the two shared.