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COLLATERAL   Print  E-mail 
Written by Graham Reed  
Tuesday, 19 October 2004
Thriller Verite...

because Last time Michael Mann Ė the auteur behind Miami vice Ė made an LA based crime movie, he gave us the superlative Heat. Now almost a decade later, he gives us Collateral. And Collateral is just as good. High praise I know, but deserved.....

Enter Tom Cruise as Vincent, grey haired and keeping that shit eating grin at bay for the vast majority of the running time-  It only surfaces once, and when it does, itís glaringly out of place; unbelieveably so. For the rest of the film, Tom is unlike any other film weíve ever seen him in: whereas most of the time Tom Cruise just plays Tom Cruise , here he actually plays a character. He acts. Unbelievable, I know, but itís true. Because Tom Cruise isnít likeable in this at all Ė yes, heís charming, but heís a snob, lofty, condescending, and heís a complete bastard. A cold hearted killer. An assassin. Vincent is, quite simply, a man doing a job.Itís just that his job is to kill for money. Thatís what he does.

And his chauffeur for the night is the unlucky, hopeful taxi Driver Max  , played impeccably and believably by Jamie Foxx, a man with hopes and dreams like all of us. One day he dreams of owning his own limo company. Until then, heís filling in.  Max is , quite simply, a man doing a job. His job is to drive. Thatís what he does.

So When Vincent climbs in the taxi and hires it for the night, for twice the amount of money Max would normally make  in a night, Max goes against his better judgement, and accepts.

Itís only when bodies start falling out of windows onto his cab that his problems begin. And Then Max comes to realise. Heís not a taxi driver. Heís a hostage. And at the end of the night, If Vincent finishes his killing spree, if the police donít realise all the victims arenít random but are relatedÖ.what then for Max?

Collateral is , in many ways, structured like a conventional American cop and robbers thriller. But given that this is Michael Mann  we are talking about, this film is so so so much more.

For a start, itís a beautiful looking film. Beautiful. The cinematography is wonderful. Just about every frame here would look great as an 8x10 on the wall, framed. And the focus is noticeable, and deliberate.As is the choice of locale.

Letís face it, youíve seen LA in a hundred million films. Always the same locations. The same look. The generic American city, all pristine, clean, homogenised. Could be any American city. Not this film. We see the parts of LA you donít get to see often.

The housing apartments in the toxic waste part of town Ė just opposite the chemical works, next to the hi-rise freeways.The seedy side of los Angeles. The City of Fallen Angels, if you like. Thatís where Tom Cruise does his work Ė dispatching people left, right and centre.

From an slow, measured opening, this film builds and builds pace. It falls down in the final act, when it gets all conventional in the mano Ė a Ė mano face off when Vincentís next target is the obviously signposted love interest from the beginning of the filmÖ.basically, when it becomes a chase movie, and then on a subway trainÖ..

You get the picture. Ultimately, it betrays itís origins. Being at heart, a slick, efficient and classy crime / police thriller, it canít play against the type forever; unlike the dark heart of se7en, the plot here needs a conventional confrontational resolution, and in doing so, lets down the promise of the premise.

But for the first three quarters, Collateral is excellent. Sharp, tense, taut, immaculately paced, with a performance from cruise where he actually acts rather than just does his autopilot cheesy grin and Jamie Foxx as a perfectly believable, ultimately human flawed Max, ramped up with cold blooded murder and some outstanding setpieces Ė the nightclub shootout is particularly notable Ė Collateral is a far superior, nay, occasionally brilliant and inventive thriller which hits all the right targets. And proves that Michael Mann is truly worth all the praise he gets. Because after this, The Insider, and Heat, heís one of the few directors worthy of being called an auteur nowdays.

Just make sure you donít meet any grey haired men looking like Tom Cruise, thoí. Because if you meet him, it'd be Murder....

Written by Guest on 2004-10-20 22:46:52
yea, good one Graham...  
Mr. Mann just keeps putting out intense & beautiful films. Nice review.

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