Collateral: A Movie Review
The movie is Collateral (2004) starring Tom Cruise, Jamie Foxx, and Jada Pinkett-Smith. In my opinion this is a well cast, taut, character-driven thriller. The film was well cast in the sense that the right actors (based on established on-screen personas) were put into the right roles; and those roles were molded in the right way to the strengths of each performer; and the director drew out and/or the actors gave the properly pitched performances.
This was especially true of Tom Cruise, in my view. Cruise played the gray-suited, prematurely gray-haired contract hit man. I think of Mr. Cruise's established on-screen persona as that of a glib loner, not unlike the established on-screen persona of Bruce Willis---but more intense where Mr. Willis strikes me as more sarcastic. Anyway, the role played by Mr. Cruise was that of a definite bad guy, but one that seemed to fit Cruise's established on-screen persona: glib loner but capable of instant, sparkly charm, social flexibility and adaptability; but of course, you are never allowed to forget how very deadly he is.
The movie is taut in the sense that there is not an ounce of fat on the plot line. The whole thing is clean and tight all the way through---very efficient, no wasted motion. The movie knows very well what it is and what it wants to do; and it doesn't in the least, allow itself to become diverted from fulfilling its destiny.
This is a character-driven story in the sense that the story only happens because of the psychology of the characters, the way they think and feel about life, the world, and themselves. Without the operation of that dynamic, in this case, we would not have a story. This is not a situation-driven story where the characters find themselves dropped into a swirl of circumstances. When I say something is 'character-driven,' I mean that that the story happens on an inside-out basis. When I say something is situation-driven I mean that the story happens on an outside-in basis; characters are placed in circumstances that originate entirely outside themselves.
In Collateral there is no story if Tom Cruise's character does not choose to become a hit man. He chooses a particular modus operandi of taking a cab around the city (I think its because he's lonely for human contact) to take care of each target. Jamie Foxx's character is not still driving a cab after twelve years if not for a certain hesitancy of his character along with some ill-advised choices.
Their paths cross and they spend some time together, riding around in Jamie Foxx's cab. Something of a contest of wills happens. At first Vincent (Tom Cruise), as the hardened assassin, after all, has the upper hand; then the momentum swings to Foxx's character; then back to Cruise. But one doesn't want to overemphasize this aspect. The movie is a crime thriller and you shouldn't make any mistake about that.
This movie is a thriller in that all the events develop and point to one truly exciting confrontation between the assassin and the cabbie. The film is a thriller not a suspense picture, as I define the term, because there is no specific time limit that is imposed. Do you follow me? No one is holding a stopwatch over anybody saying 'You must do thus and such by midnight,' or some such, to the protagonist-hero.
Wow! I see I have spent less than six hundred words on this piece. I am so proud of myself; this is one of my most efficient essays ever!
Thank you for reading!