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Movie Review: “Collateral Beauty”

Updated on May 29, 2020
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There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

Collateral Beauty

Theatrical Release: 12/16/2016
Theatrical Release: 12/16/2016 | Source


Howard (Will Smith) runs a successful company and inspires his employees with his passionate philosophy of humanity as well as its relationship with Death, Time and Love. However, Howard's life is turned upside down with the passing of his six year old daughter and, three years later, he has still yet to recover. This has, understandably devastated him, and he has been far less passionate than he once was. Instead, he has developed a cynical view of the philosophy that he once used to inspire those who followed him.

As a result of his new cynical view, his company begins to struggle, and his closest friends (Edward Norton, Kate Winslet and Michael Pena) discover that he has been writing, and mailing passionate hate mail to unusual recipients. His letters do not have a sender’s address. Instead, the words “Death”, “Time” or “Love” are the only information on the envelope. It seems insane to Howard's friends who try to find a way to help him. However, Howard begins to be visited by the entities of Death (Helen Mirren), Time (Jacob Latimore) and Love (Keira Knightley).

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

Will Smith (+10pts)
Actors or Actual? (-5pts)
Plot Twists (+5pts)
Best Friend Goals (-5pts)
Side Storylines (+5pts)
Death, Time & Love (-2pts)

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then added or subtracted based on each Pro and Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points, ranging from 0-10, to convey how significant these Pros or Cons are.


Pro: Will Smith (+10pts)

I thought Will Smith was incredible in this movie. If you have read the synopsis or seen the trailer then you know that his character suffers a great loss with the passing of his six year old daughter. The pain that Will Smith conveys throughout the movie was powerful and had me glued to the screen during every scene that he was in. From the subtle pain, visible in his facial expressions, to passionate and intense dialogue, Will Smith added so much to this movie and is the standout of a film filled with amazing talent.

The rest of the actors in Collateral Beauty were great as well and deserve recognition, but Will Smith was impressive to watch. I have seen some weak movies starring Will Smith, but he brought his A-game to this movie. His character was both complex and compelling, and a lot of that was due to Will Smith’s performance. He made it really easy to sympathize with this character and just as easy to care about his story.


Con: Actors or Actual (-5pts)

After seeing all the trailers, I had one question going into Collateral Beauty. I knew that Howard (Will Smith) would be visited by Death (Helen Mirren), Time (Jacob Latimore) and Love (Keira Knightley), but it was unclear if these three entities were hired actors by Howard’s friends or if they were the actual entities of Death, Time and Love. The decision that the movie made was fine, but I thought the movie really dropped the ball on the whole concept. The trailers seemed to be aware of the fun mystery that the audience could go on, if the movie kept us guessing. The film itself gave almost no focus to this element of the story. While some could say this did not “hurt” the movie, I think Collateral Beauty would have been way more entertaining if the filmmakers had went along with the mystery, and kept us guessing till the very end.


Pro: Plot Twists (+5pts)

There were, in a way, two plot twists in this movie. Both of them were great in the sense that I did not see them coming until a few seconds before the reveal. What was more great was the fact that, thinking back on the film, the movie had been dropping hints for these twists the entire time. I thought one plot twist did not get enough focus, so was not as impactful as the other, but both make me want to watch the film again to see all the hints that were right in front of me the whole time. A couple of those hints (in my initial viewing) had me thinking "oh that's an interesting coincidence" yet I still did not suspect the related plot twist, even though I should know by now not to believe in coincidences in movies. I do not know if these plot twists worked for everyone (if people saw them coming or if they were as oblivious as I was), but the plot twists worked for me.


Con: Best Friend Goals (-5pts)

Alright, I will try to be as vague as I can to avoid spoilers. Edward Norton, Kate Winslet and Michael Pena play Howard's friends and colleagues in Collateral Beauty. They are watching their friend in unimaginable pain and suffering. While they seem to care greatly about him on the surface, their objective told a different story. Rather than wanting him to simply get through it, they have another (more selfish) plan in mind. I had a problem with this for the simple fact that it took up screen time. There were a lot of more intriguing things about this movie that did not get focus because we spent time watching the friend's forming their selfish plan.


Pro: Side Storylines (+5pts)

I absolutely loved the three side storylines of this movie. We got to know the three friends and colleagues played by Edward Norton, Kate Winslet and Michael Pena. We got to know them individually, and we got to know them together. Individually, they each have their separate life issues that they are dealing with.

Each performance was great and I liked getting to see each of them paired with one of the "entities", which fit with their respective life issues. This was compelling to watch. Each character was given heavy subject matter, and each actor gave great performances. This made for great side storylines that complemented the main storyline well.


Con: Death, Time & Love (-2pts)

It is worth noting that my issues with the entities are not with the performances from Helen Mirren, Keira Knightely and Jacob Latimore. They each gave great performances in their respective roles. I know that I have said that for every actor in this movie but do not let that praise lose value. If I were to rate this movie purely on acting, it would have been a nearly perfect movie.

Now that I have gotten that out of the way, I do not think Howard learned anything from these "entities". They each had one scene where he vents at them, and half of that dialogue was in the trailers so I did not feel that Howard got anything out of meeting these "entities". What made this more obvious was that Edward Norton, Kate Winslet and Michael Pena learned from their respective entities. The idea was interesting, but it seemed like the side characters grew more due to their interactions with the entities than the main character did. Each of their storylines were furthered along, but Howard’s ”growth” felt very unjustified. I did not think the entities worked liked they could have because the filmmakers failed to use them properly in the main storyline.

Grading Scale


Grade: B- (83pts)

Collateral Beauty was a brilliantly acted movie with a powerful plot. It had its issues regarding how the "entities" were used and their effect on Howard and his friends. I also was not able to get behind the goal of the three friends, as it came across as selfish and did not seem to add anything to the story. I did think the plot twists worked really well, so much so that I am excited to see the movie a second time to pick up on all the clues to these twists that were right in front of me throughout the entire movie. I had some problems with Collateral Beauty, but I still thought it was a decent movie and think you might get some enjoyment from it as well.


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