As students at the United States Navy's elite fighter weapons school compete to be best in the class, one daring young pilot learns a few things from a civilian instructor that are not taught in the classroom.
LA cabbie Max Durocher is the type of person who can wax poetic about other people's lives, which impresses U.S. Justice Department prosecutor Annie Farrell, one of his fares, so much that she gives him her telephone number at the end of her ride. Although a dedicated man as seen through the efficiency in which he does his work, he can't or won't translate that eloquence into a better life for himself. He deludes himself into believing that his now twelve year cabbie job is temporary and that someday he will own his own limousine service. He even lies to his hospitalized mother that he already owns one, with a further lie that he tells her as such primarily to make her happy, rather than the truth which is that he won't do anything to achieve that dream. One night, Max picks up a well dressed man named Vincent, who asks Max to be his only fare for the evening. For a flat fee of $600, plus an extra $100 if he gets to the airport on time - Vincent wants Max to drive him to five stops ... Written by
With patience it is a very effective thriller whose plot problems are covered by a great director and a strong cast
Max thinks his day is looking up when he gets a beautiful fare who gives him a tip and her business card when she gets out. Resting on his laurels, Max nearly misses his next fare; Vincent, in LA for just one night to close out 5 deals, get signatures and then fly out by 6am and he offers Max a few hundred dollars to taxi him around for the night and then drop him at the airport. Max agrees and takes him to the first stop, only to discover that Vincent's job is actually to kill a list of 5 people and, now that Max has witnessed one killing, Vincent has no choice but to keep him with him.
I loved this film; there is no point in trying to hide that fact, but I am not blind to the problems that it has: too many reviewers have either loved it without exception or overly criticised it. The plot has holes there, I've said it. The plot relies on some actions that don't ring true and other times rely on coincidences or just write things in to move the plot. However this is not a massive problem because it is still very enjoyable and gripping and its other strengths cover these problems. Of course, even with the holes it is still very enjoyable but demands your patience because, although it is tense, it isn't a roller coaster for the vast majority of the time. It has very fast moments but a lot of it is talky and patient not a problem for me, but I can see why some multiplexers may have had itchy feet waiting for action. However even with this patience, the film is still very tense helped by some very sudden moments of violence that come out of nowhere and help put the audience on edge. Much was made in Heat of key moments where opposite characters find common ground and in this film it is the opposite but done to similarly interesting effect. Here Max and Vincent are opposites who get under each others' skins over the course of the night; their relationship is very strange and I think the script does well to bring this across even if it is hard to understand at times (part of this is their relationship getting tied up in some of the plot weaknesses).
A big part of the plot problems being covered is due to the strong direction from Mann, who can shoot a city like nobody else. As others have said, the fly-overs look great but for me the surprise was to see Mann add digital film to his cannon. This allows him to mix very rough, intimate shots with film to bring the audience in closer. I also noticed that he seemed to do very close angles and frames with 'proper' film as well, all increasing the feel of being 'there' and intimately involved. Of course, on top of this we still had Mann's usual shooting of LA at night fluorescent lighting, empty streets and so on nothing new but it is still very effective and great to look at. If it weren't for the very heavy cast involved here then Mann would be the main star of the film but, as it is, his direction is just part of the film pulling together to produce the goods.
The cast is impressive and those who have come on the basis of Cruise alone will be surprised to find so many well known faces who are very able. Cruise wants an Oscar and he has done several of the Oscar tricks to get one his most recent attempt here is to play totally against type. He does it pretty well, making for a convincing cold killer on the surface but still able to reveal an empty core when he is pushed. If he had been allowed to do this more then maybe he would have been more impressive but he isn't and the end result is just a good performance. Of course it doesn't help that Cruise has to play opposite Jamie Foxx delivering one of his most assured performances yet. Based on seeing him in stuff like Booty Call and his own comedy show, I was worried when I saw him due to star in this movie but it turns out that he can act! In fact he dominates the film with a quiet role that runs a gauntlet of emotions while Cruise mostly sits in 'cold killer' mode, meaning that, in most scenes, Foxx is the one we are watching. The support cast is surprisingly deep and the amount of familiar faces makes some moments of violence all the more unexpected. While none of them are really given the time to shine, there are quality turns from Smith, Berg, McGill, Hall, Henley and Ruffalo and it gives the (albeit false) impression of an all-star ensemble; although why Jason Stratham bothered to turn out for the one day of shooting he must have done for the airport scene is beyond me.
Overall this is a very effective film. The atmosphere is just right and is helped by the script, the cast and the director all combining to provide a patient pace that still manages to be very tense and exciting. Mann's direction is great, mixing film with digital to good effect and Cruise is very good playing against type with a good support cast of well-known faces.
However the genuine surprise of the film is Jamie Foxx; better known for clichéd ethnic comedy roles, he steps up here and just about steals every scene he is in.
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