Summer Film Series: Vol. 2, No. 12: COLLATERAL
September 6, 2004, at Cinemark Town Center, Sherman, Texas
Let me say first off that I believe this to be the best film I saw this summer. It was not my favorite, mind you, but on sheer film-making merits, Collateral was the best.
I expected dark, even gritty, visuals, but more of the “gimmick” that Tom Cruise was portraying a hitman than any focus on the story or any form of character development. I was completely surprised that Jamie Foxx was written and played so well in his role. Collateral played out as a short survey of human behavior and registered to me as an intense character study. The movie was all in Foxx’s taxi driver, punctuated by the Cruise character’s amoral actions which only served to further Foxx’s character development. And for those reasons, Collateral shone as a film.
The acting was superb. Jada Pinkett Smith played the cool prosecutor in a subtle and elegant manner, giving her character a depth that transcended her initial 15 minutes of screen time. And though we did not see her again until the last scenes of the film, her character had infused the entire film and set the tone for Foxx’s character journey. Foxx, likewise, performed his role better than I anticipated. I’m not drawn to him as an actor, and can’t actually say I’ve seen one film he’s done, but he managed to make Collateral all about him. In fact, his character is the true story in the film, and it’s a shame that Tom Cruise was given top billing for what was essentially Foxx’s tale. Jamie Foxx managed to draw me into the heart of the story and then took me on a slow but steady journey. Toward what became the final scenes of the film I was suddenly cognizant that I was fully out of my own head and into the story that was being portrayed on film. I was having no true thoughts of my own. And that was incredibly refreshing and a complete credit to the director.
There were several surprises in the film, mostly from the supporting cast. Mark Ruffalo played a detective who tracks down Foxx’s “kidnapped” driver, and though his role is small and brief, he managed to overshadow everyone in the scenes with him. Peter Berg also made a brief appearance, but he was unimpressive — just another actor in a non-essential role. That had nothing to do with Berg, but rather that the role was mostly filler. Tom Cruise, on the other hand, was impressive. It was a risk for him to take this role, to play against type, and he seemed to relish it. It was nice to see him not play the hero, and it really allowed him to show how good his acting can be if given the right opportunities. He was delightful to watch, and his character of Vincent might actually become my favorite of all his roles to date. I usually don’t even distinguish between those roles, usually don’t focus on Cruise at all, but Vincent is a gem of a role and Cruise should be honored as such.
Not many have agreed with me that Collateral is one of the best of the summer, but I stand by it. It didn’t have the action of The Bourne Supremacy or the heart of Spider-Man 2 or the effects of The Day After Tomorrow, but it had all the elements that make a great film. And it did more than just entertain; Collateral took me on a journey and enveloped me in the world it portrayed. No other movie of the summer did that and sustained that level of momentum for a full two hours.