Sitting there at your desk, being hypnotized by the artificial glow of the computer screen, you think, “some day my dream will come.” This captures the tone of Max, a man with dead dreams that have been suffocated by the imprisonment of a taxi cab, until he meets a biting reality check. Collateral is one of Michael Mann’s best films, as well as it is one of the best hit-man movies ever captured on celluloid. Mann gives us a stoic, intriguing look into the chaotic, refreshing night when a hit-man and a cabbie cross paths. Tom Cruise gives a performance that is commanding, and Jamie Foxx proves that his Oscar for Ray wasn’t a mistake.
Mann’s love for digital film, which is purposely avoided by certain filmmakers, makes a statement as he captures the L.A. nightlife in it’s full, gritty, poetically tranquil nature. Filming within the taxi-cab, Mann captures the intimacy of the conversations in simple close-up shots that capture the humility, anger and uneasiness of the two main characters. Mann also uses his trademark helicopter shots to pull the audience back into peace from a distance. The action scenes are directed with the utmost care, as they feel, look and sound wholly authentic, rivaling any action films out there. Bullets have weight, and bones can break. There are only a few action scenes, but they are unforgettably lethal. Additionally, the music is always appropriate, and varies from the Roots to Audioslave.
Walking onto the scene, eyes hiding behind sleek shades, Vincent is a rough silver, GQ dressed assassin that defines cool with his every word, action or mannerism. This is one of Tom Cruise’s best performances, as he is a cold, sarcastic, sage-like hit-man. His life is to be a ghost, and to perform like a machine. Cruise makes the character likable, as he is what every man wants to be in attitude and precision; yet, he has human moments, as we see in the few seconds his eyes turn to stone from regret after a particular kill he makes. Jamie Foxx, as Max, is the perfect compliment to Vincent, as Max is unsure, trapped in a job he never wanted, leading him to become someone he never planned to become. Where Vincent is all about improvisation, Max is all about routine; however, the entire film shows the evolution of Max to become a person that acts instead of talks about what they’re going to do. The chemistry between Foxx and Cruise is some kind of perfect.
The relationship that Vincent and Max build is a breaking of the alienation of city-life, showing that oddly enough, the best conductor for human connection is the interaction of two strangers. Collateral is a film about using improvisation, one of the only outlets of freedom we have, to escape imprisonment. Vincent is a master of improv; in fact, he’s so good that at times he obliviously transcends improvisation into routine, leading to his inevitable demise. On the other hand, Max is initially incapable of using spontaneity and acting on his thoughts. Ultimately, meeting Vincent, a cold-blooded killer, was a perfect opportunity for Max to connect to someone, where not meeting him would lead Max to die slowly in the shell of his own world of procrastination. The film burns cool, and is also an intimate look at the disconnection of the world.
The third acts falls a bit flat, but is still partially saved by the very end that book ends the film with the theme of disconnection. The last part of the film basically turns into a chase that feels lackluster, and predictable. It almost feels like a slasher film where Vincent is some version of Jason. The rest of the film makes up for the third act, although the third act still isn’t as bad as it seems.
Leon: the Professional
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