Collateral (2004)

Genre(s): Crime / Drama / Thriller
DreamWorks || R - 120 minutes - $19.99 || December 14, 2004
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2004-12-22


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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

S P E C I A L
.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

A U D I O &
.:: V I D E O ::.

Audio and Video

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Overall
.::MOVIE INFORMATION::.
Director: Michael Mann
Writer(s): Stuart Bettie (written by)
Cast: Tom Cruise, Jamie Foxx, Jada Pinkett Smith, Mark Ruffalo, Peter Berg, Bruce McGill


Theatrical Release Date: August 6, 2004


.::DVD INFORMATION::.
Supplemental Material:

    Disc 1:
  • Director Commentary


  • Disc 2:
  • City of the Night: The Making of "Collateral"
  • Special Delivery
  • Deleted Scene
  • Shooting on Location: Annie's Office
  • Visual Effects: MTA Train
  • Trailers


Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Widescreen (2.40)
  • English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (DTS 5.1), English (Dolby Digital 2.0), French (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish

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.::THE FILM::.

IMAGE

Collateral, even after another viewing on DVD from home, is still one of my favorites this year. What director Michael Mann has done is create a unique little universe using one of the biggest cities in the world and add to that gives us interesting and unique characters that is rarely seen on film today.

This is not the film for everyone, however. Some will think it brilliant (like myself) while others will wonder what the big deal is. I don't know or really think there's middle ground here. You either get it, or you don't (though perhaps if you're in the latter group, you may think those who "get it" overanalyze everything we see).

Original Review:
It started like any other night.

All L.A. cab driver Max wanted was to gather some money and open up a limo business. Although his 12-year cab career is only “temporary”, he takes great pride in his services and keeps a clean cab, perhaps the cleanest in the world. Max prefers the night shift to the day one because the people are calmer and the tips are better.

It all started like any other night. His first fare was Annie (Pinkett Smith), a U.S. Federal Prosecutor working on a big case. The two of them, Max and Annie, hit it off. He tells her about his dreams and she confides in him about her fears the night before the opening day of trials. After dropping her off (and her giving him her business card), he picks up his second fare. Vincent is the pessimistic type who sees the dark or bad side of life. Vincent offers Max $600 to take him on his rounds through the night. Max, after some hesitation, takes the offer and takes him to Vincent’s first destination. While waiting, and smacking on a midnight lunch, a body falls from above, slamming on top of his cab. Of course, Max finds out that Vincent is a hired assassin who wants Max to take him to the remainder hits on his list.

Now, at this same location, Detective Fanning (Ruffalo) discovers that his source is missing and mostly likely dead. So the detective goes on the case to find out what happened and gets entangled in a case about a man named Felix, whose about to stand trial and who is also still under the surveillance of the FBI, led by Agent Pedrosa (McGill).

Ever since the 1994 underrated crime saga, Heat, Michael Mann has been one of my favorite directors, joining the ranks of Alfred Hitchcock, David Fincher and M. Night Shyamalan (Village withstanding), to name a few. However, upon seeing the trailers for his latest, Collateral, I was a bit concerned. Not about the story, no, that sounded perfect and original. It was instead the direction itself. I noticed certain graininess in the film and later found that Mann was using both regular Panavision cameras as well as digital cameras (thus explaining the different look). Though to my surprise, it worked quite well and flowed evenly through the two-hour runtime.

Over the past couple of years, I think Tom Cruise has grown as an actor and has chosen some juicier and more character-oriented roles (rather than action-centric). Last year, I thought he did a great job in [I]The Last Samurai[/I] but was (rightfully) overshadowed by Ken Watanabe. This time, however, he gets an even better role as a villain -- and an assassin to boot. Whenever A-list stars get to be the villain, wonderful (more often than not) things happen that propel a story that could be dull or unoriginal and make it into something else entirely. Here, Cruise’s Vincent was quiet, yet had a grasp and control of the situation. He was cold-blooded, but knew how to play his assets and make (in this case) Max hear what he wanted him to hear in order to get the job done. Before Collateral, I was merely just a fan of Tom Cruise. I thought he was good in most of his roles such as Mission: Impossible, Minority Report and The Firm. Although I’m not in the Cruise-hater crowd, I never really bought into him as an outstanding actor. But he has proven me wrong. This is truly deserving of an Oscar nod, at the very least.

Not to be outdone, Jamie Foxx also has some surprises in store for the movie-going public. Foxx first started out on the popular (even to this day) “In Living Color” back in ’91. Since, he’s taken different movie roles including quite a few dumb and low-brow comedies but then busted outside of the comedy genre with the disappointing Oliver Stone football drama, Any Given Sunday starring Al Pacino. He then tried his hand at the thriller genre with 2000’s Bait, a movie I thought was average but I couldn’t really blame it on him. But, like Cruise, Foxx also steps up his career and puts into a new and different realm in this critic’s mind. As Max, he reacts to the situation at hand, like I assume any normal human being would but as the film progresses and as the two characters continually spar, his confidence with the dealing with the circumstances rises.

Collateral also features supporting roles from two well-known actors who are left out of the trailers. Mark Ruffalo as a Los Angeles detective whose the only person who suspects what’s going on and Jada Pinkett Smith as the federal attorney falling for Max. Since Cruise and Foxx dominate the film, Ruffalo and Smith don’t have much to do other than further the story along and take us to the next scene with our two main characters. But, I think there’s something -- I don’t know -- comforting about having two capable actors, rather than two unknowns, in these roles. While the characters are not well-developed, they do serve a purpose in the plot.

Overall, the story is not perfect -- in fact, there’s one scene that was pretty cliché in this genre of film (I was going to dock it a quarter of a star, but decided against) -- it is excellent. Along with Mann’s direction and Cruise and Foxx’s acting, Collateral mounts up to be one of the best films so far this year. I enjoyed just about every moment of this movie!

By the way, look out for a cameo from Jason Statham (The Italian Job, The Transporter) at the very beginning.



.::SPECIAL FEATURES::.

This section of the review may contain SPOILERS, so you may want to be cautious if you have not seen the film yet.

The first disc contains the movie itself, as well as an unadvertised commentary track from director Michael Mann. Personally, I was keen on listening to it as he is one of the my favorites of all time, but the track itself is less impressive than his career. Mann's tone is pretty dull throughout the entire picture and while he does offer some information for the listener, he doesn't delve too deep such as how or why Tom Cruise signed on to play a contract killer, nor does he mention any other tid bits concerning other potential candidates for the roles (like Adam Sandler, who was originally going to play cab driver Max). Anyways, the commentary primarily deals with Mann's thoughts on the characters: where they come from, their backgrounds (which we learn later in the featurettes, Mann did extensive research for). He also explains why the use of digital film over the 35mm standard was the only way to truly bring out the L.A. night-sky.

The second disc has the meat and potatoes of the package. First, there is the -- seemingly -- typical 'making-of' stuff with City of Night: The Making of Collateral, but this 40 minute featurette actually has some useful information to give the watcher. This is basically a collapsed look at the production, going from Tom Cruise shooting at a range or preparing for stunts to Jamie Foxx training to drive on a track. Also included are little factoids like the production had 17 "hero" cabs on hand at different stages of distruction or for use of angles (one of which were 3 "Pope-Mobiles" that allowed filming from the passenger seat to another for looks into the back seat).

Special Delivery is a short (runs a little over a minute) but interesting "featurette" that has a hidden camera follow Tom Cruise in disguise as a FedEx delivery man. This was at the suggestion of Mann who wanted Cruise to blend in and not be noticed (since Cruise is an international superstar and has a recognizable face, voice or even profile). Cruise delivers a package to a cafe and exchanges a couple of words from the worker behind the counter, without her noticing. More interesting, however, was he actually was sitting down with someone and just talked about his FedEx job.

There is a deleted scene with commentary from Mann. This two-minute scene shows how Cruise's Vincent gets rid of anybody who may be tailing him, which he does by going to LAX (because choppers cannot go into airport territory without permission) and mixing in with other cabs to lose the vehicle tail from the Feds. According to Mann, the reason this scene was axed was because he wanted to maintain the momentum of the story, which I think might have been the right decision, though it would've been nice to explain how they eventually lose the cops after the nightclub scene.

Shooting on Location shows behind-the-scenes footage on how they shot the pivitol scene at Annie's office toward the end. Though I didn't find this featurette entirely fascinating, it still shows a little bit of the preparation Mann went to get the look of the scene (like hallways of glass to cause new reflections and shadows).

Next, Tom Cruise & Jamie Foxx Rehearse runs around 4 minutes and shows... well, Cruise and Foxx's rehearsal footage, which they super-impose the final scene in the same screen. Though this isn't a great feature to watch, it does show how these actors prepare for a scene or for the role in general.

The last featurette, Visual FX: MTA Train, provides a glimpse of some green-screen work done so that Mann could get the background he wanted during the train scene. The featurette is actually a little interesting in that I didn't even know that any visual effects were even used in the film (as it has a realistic look to it).

Finally, there are the real typical features like trailers (Bourne Supremacy and Anchorman), cast and filmmakers' biographies and production notes.



.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.

IMAGE

The film sounds great (including the superior DTS track), which is harder to tell in a "quiet" film but still important never-the-less. Picture-wise, while the use of digial filming might have benefits while shooting at night, there is a graininess in those scenes (note: 90% of the movie was shot digitally). But, I chalk that "fault" up to experimental filmmaking that is forgiveable due to the other factors.



.::OVERALL::.

Collateral, again, may not be a movie everyone will "get", appreciate, or whatever. Director Michael Mann provides an unconventional method of directing (as shown in the 'making of' featurette) and a different approach to his actual direction itself. If you're a fan of the movie, go ahead and buy this disc, the features for once are worth it.