Collateral (2004)

Collateral

Genre: Thriller

Cast: Tom Cruise, Jamie Foxx, Mark Ruffalo, Jada Pinkett Smith

Synopsis: An unfortunate cabbie is forced to drive a hitman around LA so he can kill his targets.

A few days ago I noticed a post on Reddit that asked about good “unofficial trilogies.” The post that caught my eye was one in which someone suggested Collateral, Drive, and Nightcrawler. If you have been following my blog for a while, you will know that I love the last two movies. However, at the time I couldn’t confirm whether the suggestion was a good one because I hadn’t seen Collateral. I decided to change that and, after one of the most stressful work weeks of my life, I settled down for the night with my good friend Mary Jane, this film, and a bag of almonds because I had a wicked craving for almonds….not that that’s relevant.

Whenever I approach a Tom Cruise movie, I always worry it’s going to be terrible. I am not sure why that is exactly but it might have something to do with the Katie Holmes/Scientology affair. Whatever the reason, I am always forced to eat my words because the guy always manages to prove his worth. The same thing happened when I saw Edge of Tomorrow this year. In Collateral, he gives hitman Vincent a cool and steely demeanour but you can see that Cruise adds a hidden edge. You never know quite what to expect and the unpredictability of Cruise’s character heightens the film’s tension because anything could happen. This is perhaps best shown in the jazz club scene. The climax, although not entirely unexpected, was still a shock. Kind of like when my asshole colleague gives me Earl Grey tea when I ask for regular tea.

British-Simpsons-Tea-SpitMe….every damn day

The rest of the cast put in solid performances too but, for me, the real star of the film is the camera work. The film is noted as being the first major motion picture that used the Viper FilmStream High-Definition Camera. Michael Mann’s decision to use a digital camera for some of the scenes was a stroke of genius because it allows the audience to witness the Los Angeles in its raw glory. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Los Angeles is a beautiful city but it’s not an obvious beauty. It’s not beautiful in the way that San Francisco or Paris is beautiful. Los Angeles has grit and, on first glance, you would probably dismiss the city. However, the city’s beauty comes from the small details injected into the dark corners. It’s stuff like seeing the Downtown skyline surrounded by oranges, reds, and indigos at sunset. It’s seeing the wind blowing through the palm trees and knowing that the rugged wilderness of the desert mountains is at your door step. At times it feels as if nature is reclaiming the city. Collateral captures those moments very well, as evidenced by this scene.

When I first watched this scene, I thought it was a bit cheesy but I found myself rewatching it and every time I saw it my appreciation grew. Any film that captures the duality of the city’s character immediately gets my approval and this film does it every bit as well as Drive and Nightcrawler. Therefore, I think it is appropriate to lump these films together as an unofficial trilogy. If I were to name the trilogy, it would be something along the lines of the “LA Traffic Light Trilogy.”

However, it is my personal belief that Collateral is the weakest of the three films. That’s not to say that it is bad. I just feel that the film didn’t do enough to push the envelope in the way that Drive and Nightcrawler did. Those two films delivered an emotional experience that hit a lot harder and ended on an ambiguous note, ensuring that the experience kept in the mind of the audience after they left their seats. Collateral is a very good film but it feels a little too clean-cut. The ambiguity isn’t there and it ends with a nice little bow on top. I would have preferred something a bit more complex.

High-lights:

  • The beauty of Los Angeles is on full display here.
  • KTOWN!!! My old hood!
  • Solid performances, including a cameo from Javier Bardem.
  • Astonishing camera work.

Downers:

  • Why are these people still dancing in the club after some guy has been killed in front of them?
  • You wouldn’t walk away from a car accident like that.

Summary:

Collateral is a very good Los Angeles neo-noire and I’m glad that I finally got around to watching it. If you’re a fan of the genre, as I am, then by all accounts you should see this movie. While it does have its flaws, they do not spoil the positives and the film may just encourage you to take that trip to LA….which is kind of weird because this movie is about people getting shot in LA.

7.5/10

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4 Comments

Filed under Good, Thriller

4 responses to “Collateral (2004)

  1. Pretty rad flick. Especially since Cruise is so damn electric in it. Good review.

    • Thanks. I was talking about Tom Cruise with some colleagues today It’s hard to name a film he’s done that he was terrible in. He really is a talented actor and this role showcases that really well I thought.

  2. Abbi

    I find Cruise is good at playing a sociopath. Not sure why that is…

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