Movie Review: Collateral

Cruise’s new movie is no traditional thriller, but it is extremely pyschologically intense and beautifully filmed.



I’m not sure what it is about movie previews these days, but they don’t seem to give you an accurate picture of the movie you’re about to see. Collateral, for example, is a wonderful psychological film the takes the audience to very dark, internal places in the mind and takes a serious look at the dependence a hostage can feel for the hostage-taker. However, I went in expecting a thriller with non-stop action and a very clear cut sense of good evil. Tom Cruise plays Vincent, a very cool and calm assassin who is in L.A. for the night to kill five people. He hails a taxi cab driven by Max, played beautifully by Jamie Foxx, and hires to drive him around the city to get “signatures for a real estate deal.” Jada Pinkett Smith rounds out the main cast as a district attorney named Annie who gets out of Max’s cab, and ignites his interests, right before Vincent gets in.


From the very beginning the movie has a very dark feel. L.A. is portrayed as a city in which it’s very difficult to connect to people. The taxi cab, one of the most prominent settings in the movie, accentuates this since the driver and the passenger are usually separated by an actual physical barrier. Annie first breaches this gap by noticing how Max cares for his cab and by telling him about her life and how she deals with the stress of a big case. She then offers him her card before leaving, and before Vincent arrives. There’s actually a brief dialogue between Vincent and Max, after Vincent first enters the cab and is passing himself off as a real estate agent, in which Vincent talks about how the city is so huge, and yet nobody knows anybody else. Of course, at the first stop the pair makes, everything goes downhill when a body lands atop Max’s taxi cab.


From there on Max is more of a prisoner in his own cab than anything. He fears that if he runs Vincent will kill him or innocents. This sets the scene for some extremely good dialogue. While I found myself laughing along with the rest of the audience to many of the conversations Vincent and Max had, I have to say that everything was well acted and scripted. It seems funny from the outside, but there have been countless reports of hostages identifying with their captors. Many of the conversations are about everyday problems, about dreams, about family, about fears. Max is deeply afraid of what’s happening around him, but he feels helpless to do anything. So he develops a sort of friendship with Vincent, even though they never fully trust one another. He even tells Vincent exactly what he thinks of him and his career at one point during their drive.


The use of different films or filters (I don’t know enough about video cameras to identify the difference the very well) was extraordinary. The city always felt very gritty, with somewhat grainy images. Other parts of the movie that focus on the officers investigating these killings seem to be much clearer shots, much more controlled. And none of the violence was much romanticized. When Vincent shot somebody at pointblank range in the head it was very disturbing and discomforting, as such wanton violence should be. The scenes of violence were almost all shot in ways to make it clear that these were terrible acts and that people shouldn’t be able to do these things without repercussions. And even Vincent, cold, hardened killer that he is, has moments where he pauses, as if in doubt of his actions.

2 Responses to “Movie Review: Collateral”

Excellent review, ShortSpeedFreak– what with this and The Village, it seems to be the season of misleading previews.

Before, I had close to zero interest in this film. Now, however, I’d go check it out if the opportunity arose. 🙂

Paradoxdruid - September 9th, 2004 at 12:17 pm

It’s Cruise’s best opening R-rated movie ever. I don’t know if that really says anything about the quality . . . but it’s kind of fun to see him in such a different role. You know, rather than the hero with the boyish smile.

ShortSpeedFreak - September 12th, 2004 at 12:03 am

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