Thursday, September 11, 2014

Collateral (2004)

Director: Michael Mann
Writer:    Stuart Beattie
Cast:       Tom Cruise, Jamie Foxx, Jada Pinkett Smith

A cab driver (Max) finds himself the hostage of an engaging contract killer (Vincent) as he makes his rounds from hit to hit during one night in Los Angeles. He must find a way to save both himself and one last victim.

One could say that it works like a buddy film with shades of True Detective in the portrayal of the two characters. Tom Cruise's Vincent in the 'Rust Cohle' cold philosophical mode and Jamie Foxx's Max as the naive man believing in the 'American Dream' and all that shit. When I watched it for the first time some years back I didn't think much of Jamie Foxx's performance which I thought was a bit stereotyped. On second watch I guess I was a bit harsh on him even though I still have problems with the strength of relationship shown between Max and Annie (Jada Pinkett Smith). I also have problems with Max's shitty island postcard which I thought was just too cheesy. 

The story hints that Vincent was using Max to frame him for the murders and finally kill him as the detective Fanning (Mark Ruffalo) suspects. I don't think that necessarily is the case since all the killings Vincent is carrying out are related to one single case. But one can never say for sure and this ambiguity serves the film very well. One could also say that as the film progresses Max becomes more like Vincent and vice-versa. What makes the film different from the usual action films is that many bystanders get killed which is a big no no in Hollywood. In a typical Hollywood film, Mark Rufallo's Fanning character don't get killed but in this one he is killed off with nonchalance by Vincent and it serves as the breaking point for Max. What is great about it is that, even though it never tries to portray Vincent in a positive light in any sort of way, we are really sad to see him go. It got nothing to with him being played by Tom Cruise in a very much against the type manner but basically because it is the most interesting and mysterious character in the film. It is certainly up there with Tom Cruise's best roles along with Magnolia, Eyes Wide Shut and Rain Man. 

It was the first major film to be shot using Viper Filmstream high definition camera and Michael Mann opted for it since he thought that digital filming would suit better for the night environment of the film. The scene of coyote running across the road was unplanned and that improvised scene serves the film well. The highlight set-piece of the film would be the club scene set to Paul Oakenfold's 'Ready Steady Go' which was also used in Bourne Identity's mini chase sequence. If I were to rank Michael Mann's films, Collateral sits in the the top three along with 'The Insider' and 'Heat'. I haven't seen Manhunter yet but some people consider it as the best Hannibal Lecter film. The Last of the Mohicans is also a great one time watch. 

Rating: 4/5