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
Collateral is a masterpiece of American cinema. Jamie Foxx is Max, a Los Angeles cab driver with dreams of his own limo company, "Island Limo". After twelve years on the job he has become quite gifted at discerning the most intimate details of his passengers' lives... just a glance at their clothes, and he knows.
His worldly insight manages to tear down the defenses of one of his passengers, a State Attorney played by Jada Pinkett Smith, who graces him with her phone number. Max hasn't even begun to revel in the pleasure of possessing the beautiful attorney's digits when he gets his next passenger, Tom Cruise as Vincent, a slick hit-man in town for a night of killing.
When a body drops out of a fourth story window and onto Max's cab, he becomes an unwilling partner on Vincent's murder spree. Director Michael Mann (The Insider, Ali) does a masterful job manipulating texture and tone throughout the movie, taking us to settings as diverse as a junkie's apartment, a penthouse, a hospital room, and a smoky jazz club, all the while making the city of angels a central character in the story.
The soundtrack is also excellent, with a mixture of popular music and ambient tracks perfectly-timed and synced to the story... tribal drumbeats during the chase scenes, haunting rock ballads at pivotal moments, and one track that reminded this viewer of the scene at the other end of Tom Cruise's career, when he drives his father's Porsche out of the garage in "Risky Business" to the accompaniment of a thumping synth track. A bizarre side-note, I know.
As the movie builds to a climax, the police are hunting for Max, believing he is the one on a killing spree, and Vincent stalks his final victim in a blacked-out high-rise office to a backdrop of the brilliant LA skyline, reflected in multiplicity by the office's dozens of glass cubicles.
Tom Cruise, Jamie Foxx, and Jada Pinkett Smith all rise to the occasion in Collateral, and together they transcend their previous appearances on film. Mark Ruffalo gives a good performance as the cop who knows everything is not what it seems.
There are a few minor plot points which didn't sufficiently suspend my disbelief (like when Max agrees to take Vincent the vicious hit-man to see his Mother in the hospital), but overall this is a fantastic movie.
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