Sunday, May 19, 2019
Directed by Michael Mann and written by Stuart Beattie, Collateral is the story of a cab driver who is forced by a hitman to drive him to destinations around Los Angeles to kill various targets during the night. The film is a suspense-thriller that play into a cab driver who is given a troubling night as he deals with the danger of taking a hitman to kill people leading to chaos and violence. Starring Tom Cruise, Jamie Foxx, Jada Pinkett Smith, Mark Ruffalo, Peter Berg, Irma P. Hall, Bruce McGill, and Javier Bardem. Collateral is a riveting and entrancing film from Michael Mann.
Taking place in the span of nearly 12 hours in Los Angeles, a cab driver is forced by a hitman to drive him to various locations in the city where he is to kill four key witnesses and prosecutor for the man who hired him. It’s a film that explores a cab driver’s awful night as he endures a journey of darkness as he has to accompany this man to destinations as he is there to kill and that is it. Stuart Beattie’s screenplay follows Max Durocher (Jamie Foxx) who is a cab driver with a meticulous personality that works part-time as a cab driver hoping to raise enough money to start a limousine business where one of his first clients is a prosecutor in Annie Farrell (Jada Pinkett Smith) whom he converses with as it leads to a brief sense of attraction. Then he meets Vincent (Tom Cruise) who asks to go to this destination and then a body falls onto Max’s cab as it begins a hellish night as Vincent is a professional who carries a list as he does whatever he can to kill making Max uneasy.
Vincent is a mysterious character who can be charming one minute and then ruthless the next minute where Max gets a close look at Vincent’s work and through the trail of bodies he left behind. The script also play into these conversations between Vincent and Max where there is a unique dynamic between the two as the latter knows he’s not in control but is eager to get out. Even as Vincent’s killings would attract the attention of the police including LAPD detective Ray Fanning (Mark Ruffalo) who believes something is up as one of his witnesses had been killed knowing it’s a professional hit. Once the story progresses and body count pile up, Max would do drastic means to stop Vincent from killing more only for things to get more complicated where Max is forced by Vincent to meet up with the man who hired Vincent in Mexican drug lord in Felix Reyes-Torrena (Javier Bardem) who would only raise more suspicion as Max realizes he’s in a far darker world that is not prepared for.
Michael Mann’s direction is astonishing in terms of the visuals he creates as it is shot largely on high-definition digital video with the exception of a nightclub scene shot on 35mm film. Shot on location in Los Angeles which is a character in the film, Mann displays this air of grit into his compositions where he would use a lot of wide and aerial shots to capture so much attention to detail as well as where Max’s cab is at in a certain location. Still, much of the direction is set inside the cab throughout the film where Mann maintains that intimacy through the close-ups and medium shots as well as in the different locations that Max has to take Vincent to. The scenes of violence are brutal though some of it occur off-screen yet there’s one violent scene that is brutal as it relates more to Max’s reaction and how close he is to the violence. Mann’s direction definitely play into this air of cinema verite with its usage of hand-held cameras as well as maintaining this air of realism into the direction.
Mann also creates this air of tension as it relates to the trail of bodies that Vincent leaves behind as detectives, FBI agents, and others go on the case to find out what is going on. The nightclub scene before the film’s third act where a witness is at is among one of the most suspenseful moments in the film as it shows how ruthless Vincent is in his pursuit. The third act is about the final target and what Max is willing to do to protect that person as well as realizing what kind of person Vincent really is. It’s among the most thrilling sequences ever captured on film as Mann uses the locations and compositions to help play into the stakes of a man who is having a bad night. Overall, Mann crafts a visceral yet evocative film about a cab driver being forced to drive a hitman to various destination on a dark night in Los Angeles.
Cinematographers Dion Bebe and Paul Cameron do brilliant work with the film’s digital video photography with Bebe doing much of the work to play into its sense of grit and crudeness but also in some gorgeous imagery for many of the interior/exterior scenes set at night. Editors Jim Miller and Paul Rubell do amazing work with the editing with its usage of jump-cuts and other rhythmic cuts to play into the action and suspense. Production designer David Wasco, with set decorator Sandy Reynolds-Wasco and art director Daniel T. Dorrance, does fantastic work with the look of some of the places that Max and Vincent go including a few clubs as well as the nightclub for one of the film’s big shootouts. Costume designer Jeffrey Kurland does terrific work with the costumes as it is largely straightforward that includes the grey suit that Vincent wears.
Prosthetic/special effects makeup artist Matthew W. Mungle, along with special makeup effects artists Jake Garber, Cleve Gunderman, Jamie Kelman, and Bart Mixon plus prosthetic makeup artist Wesley Wofford, does excellent work with the look of Vincent with his hair as well as the look of a few characters. Visual effects supervisor Robert Stadd does some fine work with the visual effects as it is mainly set dressing for a few shots in the city. Sound designer Elliott Koretz does superb work with the sound to help play into the atmosphere of what it sounds like inside a cab or at a club as well as how music is heard on a certain location. The film’s music by James Newton Howard is wonderful for its low-key orchestral score that has elements of electronic ambient music that help play into the unsettling tone of the film while music supervisor Vicki Hiatt creates a soundtrack that feature some additional score pieces from Antonio Pinto plus music from the Roots with Cody Chesnutt, Groove Armada, Calexico, Tom Rothrock, Green Car Motel, Johann Sebastian Bach, Miles Davis, Paul Oakenfold, and Audioslave.
The casting by Francine Maisler is incredible as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from Jason Statham as a man Vincent bumps into at the airport early in the film, Bohdi Elfman and Debi Mazar as a couple that Max picks up, the trio of Angelo Tiffe, Thomas Rosales Jr., and Inmo Yuon as Vincent’s targets, Richard T. Jones and Jamie McBride as a couple of traffic cops, Steven Kozlowski as a mugger trying to mug Max, Klea Scott as a FBI official, Emilio Rivera as a bodyguard of Felix, and Javier Bardem in a terrific one-scene appearance as the Mexican drug lord Felix Reyes-Torrena. Barry Shabka Henley is superb as the jazz musician Daniel Baker whom Vincent and Max sees as he’s performing at a club as he talks to them about Miles Davis while Irma P. Hall is fantastic as Max’s mother Ida who is ailing at the hospital as she is concerned about Max’s future while finding herself in an odd conversation with Vincent.
Bruce McGill is excellent as the FBI agent Frank Pedrosa who is spying on Felix as he believes he is involved with these killings while Peter Berg is wonderful as Fanning’s partner Richard Weidner who follows the trail of bodies though he isn’t sure it’s all connected to Felix. Mark Ruffalo is brilliant as detective Ray Fanning as someone who learns that one of his witnesses had been killed as he is aware of what is going on as he also believes that there is a lot more to meet the eye prompting him to find Max and protect him. Jada Pinkett Smith is amazing as Annie Farrell as a prosecutor Max meets early in the film in his cab as they converse about a few things including Farrell’s job as she would also take part in the film’s climatic third act as it relates to the case she’s involved in.
Jamie Foxx is phenomenal as Max Durocher as a cab driver who would have the worst night of his life as he is forced to accompany a hitman to various destinations where Foxx maintains a restraint as well as being this uneasy observer who is troubled by what he sees as he and Cruise do have great rapport to play into the tension and drama. Finally, there’s Tom Cruise in a tremendous performance as Vincent as a mysterious hitman who is ruthless in his pursuit of targets but is also a professional that is good at his job and is intent on finishing as it’s a dark yet riveting performance from Cruise.
Collateral is a spectacular film from Michael Mann that features great performances from Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx. Along with its ensemble supporting cast, eerie visuals, a gripping music soundtrack, top-tier editing, and a broad sound design. The film is definitely a suspense-thriller that takes a simple premise and amp it up in its exploration of a hitman forcing a cab driver to take him to destinations in Los Angeles so that he can kill some people. In the end, Collateral is a sensational film from Michael Mann.
Michael Mann Films: (The Jericho Mile) – Thief (1981 film) - (The Keep) – Manhunter - (L.A. Takedown) – The Last of the Mohicans - Heat – (The Insider) – Ali - Miami Vice – Public Enemies (2009 film) - Blackhat - (The Auteurs #74: Michael Mann)
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