Collateral

Collateral

****

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Pick at it and the story unravels. Don't!

The genius of Michael Mann (Heat, The Insider) is that he sculpts movies. He doesn't interpret a script by following the dots, or walk actors through someone else's steps with the precision of a dance coach. The way he uses the camera, the unconventional editing, the emphasis on shape and shadow, colour and light, stamps his trademark on everything he touches.

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The look of L.A is thrilling, giving it a sci-fi patina, as if the ghost of Blade Runner haunts the streets. Tom Cruise, with his gunmetal hair and expensive stubble, epitomises efficiency. The weapon in his hand is no toy, the threat on his lips no idle gest. He plays Vincent, an out-of-town assassin, who hates this sprawling metropolis and only visits if the work brings him and on this day it does; in fact, he has a busy schedule, surprisingly so for such an exact science.

Jamie Foxx is the other side of the equation. As Max, the taxi driver, he is put into an impossible position, virtually kidnapped by Vincent to escort him from one contract to another, until his involvement begins to resemble collusion. Vincent is not a man who responds to negativity lightly. Life, as he tells Max in a brief personal moment, is too short. Authority is nothing more than will over weakness and Vincent is an authority unto himself. Also, he's a trained professional who takes pride in doing the job quickly, with minimal disruption.

Max has been driving a cab for 12 years and still believes he's filling in for when he can start his own business, whatever that may be. Vincent's certainty appears seductive by comparison, forcing Max to make uncomfortable choices when normally he would put them to one side and do nothing.

Like the aftermath of the botched bank heist in Heat, there are moments here, especially in the night club shootout, which are contained by Mann's mastery of action. As Vincent stalks his final victim in an empty office block, the tension compares favourably with that of Sir Alfred.

Cruise demonstrates a commitment that so often can be interpreted as two dimensional. Although Vincent has no life outside the two hours he spends in Collateral, this is not a robotic performance, interspersed with neat moves of the artistically martial kind. He personifies the single-minded intensity of a sociopath supremely well and is matched, if not surpassed, by Foxx's quiet man caught in crossfire.

As the situation races out of control, Max clings on for dear life and finds, much to his surprise, an inner strength. Foxx conveys layers of fear, as Max searches desperately for an exit strategy, carrying the audience with him. Even the ending, which otherwise would be dismissed as inconclusive, feels valid and true, emphasising yet again the magic that is Mann.

Reviewed on: 17 Sep 2004
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Hitman hires a taxi driver in L.A to drive him to his human targets.
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Read more Collateral reviews:

David Haviland ****
Josh Morrall ****

Director: Michael Mann

Writer: Stuart Beattie

Starring: Tom Cruise, Jamie Foxx, Jada Pinkett Smith, Mark Ruffalo, Peter Berg, Bruce McGill, Irma P Hall, Barry Shabaka Henley, Javier Barden, Emilio Rivera

Year: 2004

Runtime: 120 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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