Collateral Review

Los Angeles Cab Driver, Max (Jamie Foxx) dreams of escaping his day job and becoming the owner of a tropical limousine firm. Working twelve hour shifts as a driver has given him heightened observational skills, which he tends to put to good use as he maintains friendly conversation with his passengers. One night a man named Vincent (Tom Cruise) gets into his cab and asks him to drive to a nearby destination and await his return, after paying him a sum of $300. Minutes after Vincent enters an apartment building the body of a man falls onto Max's cab, Vincent returns and hurries Max in cleaning up the leftovers. Vincent, now in control of the situation forces Max to drive him from location to location in the space of one night, as Vincent hunts down his four remaining hits.

In what is a good move for both Cruise and Mann, Collateral treads across new territory, as not only does it give Cruise a role unlike any other he's played before but it also gives Mann some new toys to play with in the form of Viper digital cameras.

The film isn't as conventional as it might sound; taking as intimate a setting as the inside of a taxi cab Collateral is a multi-layered story whereby we can only understand the plot and character's progression by going deeper into their psyche. Michael Mann directs a very suggestive film that doesn't exactly spell things out for the viewer, it is only when we understand Vincent that we can buy into his character; he's calculated and manipulative so it doesn't become too difficult to accept that he can get away with doing what he does. By using the confines of Max's cab for much of the film's duration, Mann sets up this approach and takes us on a different kind of journey, a learning experience that asks where, why and how? On one side of the coin you have a straightforward action/thriller but on the other you have a complex character study, which even becomes manipulative to a point, and that is when the film produces some of its finest and most rewarding moments.


With a plot that appears paper thin on the outside and relies so heavily on its characterisation it becomes important that it has the right blend of acting talent to pull it off. Tom Cruise further fleshes out his CV by taking on an unexpected role as an assassin that sees him greyed up and poised for action. It's only when you later learn about his complete dedication to the role that you can really appreciate his character on a grander scale, coupled with Michael Mann's obsession for detail we have a well rounded creation that is portrayed in a much more subtle way than the screen would allow showing us in great depth. Cruise adapts well to the performance and not only does he play the character with the right mix of "cool" and sophistication but he also has the knack of making him extremely likeable and therefore enticing the viewer to cheer him on. You actually want him to succeed and pull off every assignment in the course of that night.

In contrast Max, the good guy is a hopeless dreamer. He fails in life where Vincent succeeds, trapped inside his cab for the past twelve years where he does more to change the lives of others than he does his own. Foxx, of whom I only know from In Living Color puts in an equally likeable performance that has already secured him a great future, with 2005 tipped to bring him much recognition, with three Golden Globe nominations and no doubt one or two Academy Award nominations for best actor and best supporting actor respectively.

While it's mostly serious in tone the film has a good helping of humour and as Max and Vincent continue on through the night there are several amusing exchanges of dialogue and glances that work surprisingly well, even though we should be asking "Why is Vincent helping Max on several occasions"? Vincent obviously has more tolerance for Max than his unwilling driver realises, with a small part of him obviously liking Max so conflict only rears its head whenever Vincent's job at hand is being interrupted. The moments of banter and physical confrontations breathe more life into these characters and the dynamic range that is brought about is executed masterfully.


Collateral isn't quite perfect though. As we reach the final 30-minutes the film begins to lose a bit of its energy and the edge of the seat moments (of which I actually found myself in) soon disappear. The final scenes feel rushed and lack any real climax, which is disappointing because it had everything going for it up to this point. Try as they might each actor fails to provide us with a genuinely emotional performance because to be honest it was an aspect never fully realised for the viewer to understand, it is something that Michael Mann knowingly kept to himself, hoping that the film's symbolism and underlying character traits would make up for what isn't physically shown onscreen. In the director's mind this is no doubt a perfect film - it is everything he wants it to be, but perhaps because the story and characters are so incessantly personal to him that he fails to gain an overall audience appreciation. It’s like looking at an artist's painting and trying to pick out what was going on in their head. Even though it is clear afterwards the film still suffers, having exhausted itself in the first 90-minutes.


The DVD

DreamWorks Home Entertainment present Collateral in a standard two-disc armaray case. This review is taken from the Canadian release, brought to us by our Loaded 247 sponsors. The cover is reversible but the back of the English cover shows the synopsis in both English and French.

Picture

Anamorphic 2.40:1. Being shot 85% in high definition, Collateral exhibits a high level of detail for both day and night shots giving a fine sense of realism, with the image also showing a natural soft grain. Further enhancing Michael Mann's experimental procedures is the brilliant colour reproduction that is made up of stark blues and green hues, washes of light of all colours add a great amount of atmosphere and being shot at night time the black levels and contrast have been perfectly balanced. Overall a top transfer.

Sound

We're rather spoiled for choice here. English Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround, 5.1 Digital Surround and DTS 5.1 are up for the taking. There is also a French 5.1 Surround track.

I viewed the film with in DTS and I'm happy to say it hits the spot. The most immediate thing is how much Mann loves his guns. Guns don't ever sound as aggressive as when they are in a Michael Mann film and here they come across phenomenally well as Vincent takes out his enemies. James Newton Howard's excellent score and the array of songs that highlight various scenes emotionally or otherwise are channelled through the speakers brilliantly, creating a good blend of onscreen tension and underlying themes.


Extras

The following extras have optional English subtitles.

Audio Commentary with Michael Mann
Director, Michael Mann gives us more information that we could ever want. He talks deeply and empathetically about each and every principal character and tells us how his chosen actors were perfect for their respective roles. Mann goes on to talk about filming in high definition and gives a good director's perspective on working with various light sources, some of which occurred naturally in the process and others that had to be artificially created. The director also talks about the film's symbolism and how it is designed to stay below the film's surface.

City of Night: The Making of "Collateral" (40:58)
This piece takes us from pre-production through to the finished product. Mann discusses what drew him to the film and how he decided to switch locations from New York to Los Angeles. He talks about using digital technology and capturing LA like it has never been captured before. Again his enthusiasm toward the characters of Max and particularly Vincent is made clear and he talks further about coming up with their back story. There is also input from Tom Cruise, Jamie Foxx and Jada Pinkett Smith, who discuss their experience working with Mann and we also get to see the amount of effort that they put into the film, most impressively Tom Cruise who spent three months preparing for his role and learning every bit about his character. Mann talks about the film’s score and how he wanted it to highlight particular scenes as well as going on to talk about some of the film's CGI work that is implemented in very subtle ways.

Special Delivery (1.08)
Michael Mann wanted to be sure that Vincent could get by as being an anonymous character. He decided to send Tom Cruise out one day as a FedEx delivery man, in disguise with glasses and cap - nobody recognised him.

Deleted Scene with Commentary (1:56)
Michael Mann talks us through this 2-minute scene that sees Vincent and Max being pursued by the FBI. The scene is nice looking and makes good use of Mann's aerial photography but as explained it lacks momentum. Mann lets us in on some of Vincent’s thoughts here, which we would never know about otherwise.

Shooting on Location: Annie's Office (2:33)
Michael Mann talks about shooting the night time office scene and mentions how Vincent is trained in hunting people down in the dark. He talks about how he achieved shooting in the dark by means of high definition cameras, which give a much greater scope.

Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx Rehearse (4:13)
This shows footage of Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx rehearsing their parts at Michael Mann's office in June 2003 - It is clear from the start they have a good chemistry going. Their rehearsal scenes are then put up against the final film shots, showing how close the footage is in the end.

Visual FX: MTA Train (2:27)
Michael Mann talks about the reason for using green screen for the film's train sequence toward the end of the film. While shooting on a moving train was easy enough, the real reason for changing the outside shots was to give out an emotional, symbolic meaning.

Trailers (1:20)
A short collection of trailers for The Bourne Supremacy and Anchor Man.

Cast
A collection of very informative mini biographies for Tom Cruise, Jamie Foxx, Jada Pinkett Smith, Mark Ruffalo, Peter Berg and Bruce McGill.

Filmmakers
Like the above these cover some extensive ground and provide information for the film's crew that includes Michael Mann, Stuart Beattie, Julie Richardson, Frank Darabont, Rob Fried, Chuck Russell, Peter Giuliano, Michael Waxman, Dion Beebe, Paul Cameron, David Wasco, Jim Miller, Paul Rubell, Jeffrey Kurland and James Newton Howard.

Production Notes
This is a huge segment that covers a lot of ground but if you've already watched the making of feature there is little point in reading, as essentially this is a retread of everything explained in that piece.

Easter Eggs
There are five Easter Eggs that are easily accessed from disc two, by just pressing left or right next to each feature heading. These are brief and look at behind the scenes stuff.


Overall

Michael Mann's Collateral just may be the most infinitely entertaining thrill ride of 2004, offering brief but highly enjoyable moments of action, that in order to get the most out of it you must suspend any disbelief and just go along with the characters' predicaments. In any other hands the film might not have worked so well but the reason it does is down to Mann's need to try new things, to allow his creative juices to flow in new fangled ways and fulfilling his ever perfectionist desires.

Film
8 out of 10
Video
9 out of 10
Audio
9 out of 10
Extras
7 out of 10
Overall

8

out of 10

Last updated: 19/04/2018 10:46:48

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