A cab driver becomes the unwilling accomplice to a sinister hit man in Michael Mann's Collateral, which is easily one of the summer's best.
Jamie Foxx stars as the cab driver, Max, a young man who has dreams of bigger and better things. He gets more than he bargained for, however, when he picks up a fare by the name of Vincent, played methodically by Cruise, who turns out to be a hit man that is traveling around Los Angeles for the evening to kill five people. The plot is simple but the execution is anything but, graced by the directing style of Mann (known best for Heat and The Insider). The camerawork and editing transform the movie from a basic thriller to an engrossing drama, but don't worry - there is still plenty of suspense.
Foxx is great in the starring role, proving yet again that he has what it takes to be a leading man. He showed strength in 2001's Ali, which was also directed by Mann, but has primarily stuck to safer and uninteresting roles. In Collateral, he is entertaining to watch and very believable, allowing the audience to truly relate with his character.
Cruise is also exceptional, playing the villain for the first time since Lestat in Interview with the Vampire. The character of Vincent is dark, evil and very disturbed, yet deep and almost caring in a twisted kind of way. Vincent takes Max under his wing as an unwilling prodigy, nurturing him to the point where he can basically fight for himself. Regardless, Vincent is one of Cruise's most intriguing roles to date.
Collateral, overall, is a very effective thriller that unfortunately will not appeal to everyone. Mann provides a very rich and dynamic environment, but his tendency to focus on the characters to great excess may drive some audiences away. Mann takes his time establishing the characters and their relationships, and occasionally this method takes away from the pace of the film. There is one scene where Vincent and Max are talking while on their way to kill the fourth victim that just completely stops the film dead in its tracks.
Nonetheless, Collateral continues to evolve from beginning to end, and it gets better with every second. While there are a few scenes that are a bit slow, the movie gets more and more suspenseful as the seconds tick by; the last twenty minutes or so are absolutely extraordinary. Once the film ends, you realize you were holding your breath.
Collateral is not for everyone, but those looking for a smart thriller should get a kick out of seeing Tom Cruise play his most ruthless character to date.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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