Reviewed by: David Haviland


The film's title refers to collateral damage, a warfare term for inadvertent civilian casualties; a regrettable, but acceptable price of success. When a hitman hijacks a cab driver for the night, the driver's life becomes mere collateral, and both men know it.

The cab driver is Max (Jamie Foxx), an introverted dreamer who claims to be working towards his own limousine business. He picks up Annie (Jada Pinkett Smith), a fast-talking lawyer who gives him precise directions while shouting into her mobile phone. Max suggests a quicker route and the pair begin to talk. There's an attraction between them, but it's not sexy or flirtatious; instead we get a sense that they're drawn together by their mutual loneliness.

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Max's next fare is Vincent (Tom Cruise), who says he has a number of appointments to make, and hires him for the night. The nature of Vincent's appointments quickly becomes clear, when the first stop ends with a body smashing into Max's windscreen.

Vincent forces Max to help him hide the body in the boot and the pair drive off. No one reports seeing this, because in Collateral's Los Angeles, no one sees anything. Vincent tells Max a depressing story about a dead man riding the subway for four hours, without anyone even noticing.

Michael Mann captures this sense of the lawless, impersonal city using high definition digital video, giving the film a stylish palette of blue and neon. At one point Max and Vincent stop at a red light, as wild coyotes amble across the road.

Although Vincent's schedule provides the film's structure, this is very much Max's story, so we don't even see what happens at two of the hits. Instead we observe the drama in between appointments, as the pair talk and begin to influence each other. Vincent is outraged when Max is abused by his boss over the radio and teaches him to be more forceful.

The film builds with unrelenting pace as we approach the climax. Stuart Beattie's powerful screenplay sets up numerous plot possibilities and red herrings, involving a drugs cartel, the FBI and the police. As a result, the film is consistently surprising and its gloomy tone seems to suggest that anything could happen to anyone at any time.

As a result, this is yet another first class thriller to join The Bourne Supremacy and Open Water in what is proving to be an exceptional Indian summer for the genre.

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:

Angus Wolfe Murray ****
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


SSFF 2011

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If you like this, try:

The Bourne Supremacy