Movie Review: Collateral

Posted by Arlo on Aug 30, 2004 under Movie Reviews

Collateral Movie Poster (10k image)It seems that the first reaction to the Collateral trailer most people have is something along the lines of, “Tom Cruise as a villain? Cool!” Not me. I was thinking, “Jamie Foxx isn’t playing an idiot? Intriguing.” I’m sure there’s a third reaction out there that goes, “Another Michael Maan movie? Outstanding!” but I don’t know much about the director so I can’t comment on that one.

Now, I really liked the first teaser for the movie. It let you know that Jamie Foxx plays a cab driver, that Tom Cruise is a hitman that’s going to kidnap him, and that it’s all going to take place over one night in Los Angeles. It was tantalizing – just enough to get me interested in that “what would you do in this situation” kind of way. The Hollywood Marketing Spoiler Goons must not have been pleased, though, because they issued another trailer that gave more than enough of the ending away. You know what? I was hooked before I knew that the cab driver would fight back, thankyouverymuch. In fact, the second trailer almost made me skip the movie.

I waited until the last night it was in town and then still almost didn’t go. I mentioned to my wife that I was considering going and she responded with, “Oh, that movie. I want to see it!” If she hadn’t, I probably wouldn’t be writing this review.

Collateral has a slow-burn fuse. I couldn’t help comparing it to the last movie I’d seen, The Bourne Supremacy. The directing and editing in The Bourne Supremacy was all over the place – fast cuts, quick movements, and high action. If that movie picked up its editing philosophy from MTV, Collateral went for VH1.

Michael Mann doesn’t fear leaving an actor on the screen for awhile – not even Jamie Foxx who, before this, I wouldn’t even want in a film. But everyone in the movie, Tom Cruise, Jamie Foxx, Javier Bardeem, and Mark Ruffalo especially, all portray unique, believable personalities. It’s a pleasure to see them carry their characters through the movie and Mann allows them to do it patiently.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t a big payoff at the end – there is – just that the movie builds to it slowly. The first act is delightfully leisurely, the second builds the tension, and when you finally get to the third, the movie has picked up enough steam to get you on the edge of your seat. It’s a great way to make a movie that’s been sorely missed (by me, at least.) Take a movie like Spiderman, for instance. As a viewer, you’re constantly batted back and forth between character development and action scenes. It’s almost as if the writer was unsure if they could maintain your interest without resorting to the easy out: “We’re losing ‘em with all this sappy romance stuff – better throw in another Doc Ock fight!” It must take a very confident writer and director to allow a movie to build on its own. Hell, confidence is probably only part of the story. The director would have to have a proven box office record to afford the luxury of being able to ignore the big studios’ interference.

Whatever the reason, Collateral is a movie that surprised me – not in its content so much, I guess, but in its great acting and careful pacing.

Trivial Thought: Los Angeles is a huge city, Cruise’s character even says so in the beginning, so why are there so many improbable coincidences in this movie?
What did I find worthwhile about the movie? The acting surprised me the most. And, of course, the pacing. Didn’t I just say that?
Would I recommend the movie? Yes!
Will I buy it on DVD? No, not much to be gained by multiple viewings.

Overall Summer Movie Ranking
Spider-man 2
Shrek 2
The Village
I, Robot
The Bourne Supremacy
The Day After Tomorrow
The Terminal
The Chronicles of Riddick
Fahrenheit 9/11
Van Helsing
Aliens vs. Predator
The Stepford Wives