With his steel grey suit and matching hair, Tom Cruise, as Vincent the hired hit man in 'Collateral', adopts an icy demeanour devoid of any and all conscience and a philosophy of survival as convincing and focused as the shots he fires at his victims.
Vincent is on a killing spree and needs a ride. He bumps into pleasant cabbie Max (Jamie Foxx) right after Max has dropped off district attorney Annie (Jada Pinkett Smith) at her office. Annie and Max share, briefly, an honest and clairvoyant moment of deep connection which emanates their characteristics long after the scene has ended and sets the conversational tone that the rest of the movie takes. Once Vincent has made clear his intentions and offered a hefty sum to convince Max, the ride is on and Max and Vincent square off verbally and soon enough, physically during one long night in LA with cops on their trail and each getting to learn a thing or two from the other.
Director Michael Mann has explored the intimacy of both sides of the crime world with great fascination in 'Heat' and 'Thief' and is again back on track and on familiar ground in another tale set in Los Angeles. Armed with a digital camera, Mann manages to capture LA at its most intimate and natural. The light from street lamps takes on a grainy hue, while planes, dropping or taking off from the LA skyline, drone in the movie frame like stills taken from a personal home video collection. It's a remarkable achievement and proves the clarity that the nascent medium has to offer directors willing to explore the technique.
To Mann, LA is a jungle, where Vincent has come to hunt his prey. Vincent's objectives are simple and persuasive to the point of being easily acceptable, even by a cab driver with the right dose of morality. With his sharp, clear cut features, Cruise is like a gluttonous eagle intent on finishing its chase after catching eye of its intended hunt. There is a scene of overwhelming beauty when the animalistic ideals of the audience are confirmed; Vincent locks eyes with a pack of Coyote's and there is a moment of self-recognition and instant connection between them.
As Max, Jamie Foxx is an astonishment to watch, not because the performance is exceptional (it is to an extent) but because of the comedic background that Foxx comes from. He is able to hold his own against Cruise on more than one occasion and displays much resilience in the way he makes Max's transformation and growth believable. Like all of Mann's previous pictures this too is directed not just skilfully, but with particular emphasis on the right selection of a suitable soundtrack to set the tone and atmosphere. For these very reasons, there is little to complain about while watching 'Collateral'. Swift and quick, like the angel of death, Vincent finishes his job with great efficiency; Mann himself is no different. - Faizan Rashid