Classic Film: Collateral (2004)
Director: Michael Mann
Starring: Tom Cruise
Runtime: 120 Mins
Review: Duncan Pelham
Michael Mann’s Collateral is often overshadowed by his other two towering achievements, Heat and The Last Of The Mohicans, but Collateral shows similar sophistications. His films have been described as high-brow action films. That may seem like a contradiction in terms, but there’s no doubting that Mann has an intelligent vitality to his direction.
Max (Jamie Foxx) is a taxi-driver dreaming of bigger things. By a strange twist of fate, a ruthless assassin (Tom Cruise) enters his cab on a mission to execute five high-profile court-case witnesses by the end of the night. So far, so formulaic. But it’s not just the thriller element that marks this film out, but the surprisingly scrupulous character study. We build an empathy with the unfortunate Max as he drive us around Los Angeles. He’s a dreamer who’s underachieved, and the harsh, philosophical postures of Cruise’s assassin forces Max to confront suppressed aspirations. The two share incredible on-screen chemistry, and as much as this is Foxx’s show, Cruise might just steal it in one of his greatest performances. Sharply suited and neatly styled, he jibes at Max about dreams he may never pursue. Both dig deeper into one another’s psyche, engaging in a quasi-philosophical battle of the wits. The dialogue positively zings, every frame pervades an ominous tension, whilst the cab scenes recall the Pacino/De Niro coffee shop exchange in Heat.
Collateral is just as much these things as it is an ode to the shimmering cityscape of L.A. at night. Mann works with twilight-tinged palettes of dark oranges and blackened blues, brought to life by the energy exuded by Mann’s digital camera work.