Collateral (2004)

Collateral is a must-watch for any film buff to see and enjoy.

Max: Did you kill him?

Vincent: No. The bullets and the fall killed him.

Collateral transports us to the mean, ruthless streets of Los Angeles. The film follows a night-shift cab driver named Max. Max takes pride in maintaining a clean cab for himself and also for his numerous passengers. He encounters many people through the night, including lawyers, and annoying couples. But one night, after dropping off a regular passenger, he picks up a handsomely-dressed man named Vincent. Vincent comes in and appears to be a friendly man, engaging in conversation with Max on his way to his destination. When Max arrives at the requested location, Vincent tells Max that he has many destinations to go to throughout the night. Instead of hailing many cabs, he wants Max to be his primary driver. Max initially refuses, but accepts when Vincent bribes him with a generous amount of money.  Vincent goes inside of the apartment complex, while Max pulls around the corner to wait for Vincent to return.

Time passes, and suddenly, a man falls on top of the cab, scaring Max in the process. Max is freaked out and is wondering what is going on. He looks toward Vincent who appears to be calm about the situation. Vincent threatens (at gunpoint) Max to help him put the body in the trunk, drive him to the rest of his stops, and to remain calm throughout the process. With a hit man holding him hostage, Max acquiesces to his demands and drives to the next destination. But will Max make it through the night?


Written by Stuart Beattie and directed by Michael Mann, Collateral is one of the best movies of the 2000s. The film benefits from a very talented director such as Michael Mann and a well-written screenplay from Beattie. With the combination of good storytelling, well-realized characters, and great cinematography, Collateral is a must-watch for any film buff to see and enjoy.

On the script side, Beattie creates a realistic, gritty world for these characters to inhabit in. Los Angeles feels authentic and scary at the same time. A lot of the locations in the film showcase the atmosphere and the people. In scenes, viewers can see clubgoers and gangs hanging out in clubs and thieves hanging around alleys. With these scenes added into the film, viewers can see Los Angeles from multiple perspectives, instead of just one. In addition, Beattie blends genres to make Collateral a unique film to watch. The first half appears to be a crime drama; the second half comes across as an action movie; and the third half appears to be a suspense thriller. By combining these genres, Beattie manages to keep the film engaging, allowing the movie to move at a brisk pace.


While the locations and scenes in Collateral make it interesting to watch, the characters are so well-developed that they are the most engaging part about Collateral. Max, played by Jamie Foxx, hopes to one day have his own limo company, but is reluctant to make his dream happen. He has been a cab driver for 12 years. Max is an interesting character because he possesses flaws just like any other human being. Foxx captures Max’s fear as well as his humble and caring traits. This is truly Foxx’s best performance (along with Ray) to date.


Tom Cruise sheds his hero image to play the cold, calculated contract-killer Vincent. Cruise for many years was known for playing characters who always saved the day. From his early Mission Impossible movies to his roles in Minority Report and A Few Good Men, Tom Cruise solidified himself early on as a film’s hero. For years, casual filmgoers and film buffs have viewed Cruise as the typecast hero. But when Collateral was released, Cruise broke typecasting and turned in a good performance as the main villain in the movie. Cruise, who is underappreciated in the acting department, gives one of the best performances of his career. As Vincent, Cruise conveys Vincent’s calm nature, while also conveying a slightly unhinged side to the character. Furthermore, Cruise performs many of his own stunts, portraying Vincent as a highly skilled tactical expert who take you out if you’re on his kill list. Thanks to Cruise’s acting range and action choreography’s skills, he gives us one of the most memorable assassins in cinema history.


Supporting actors Mark Ruffalo, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Peter Berg bring gravitas to their roles. Ruffalo plays Ray Fanning who is an LAPD detective looking for clues surrounding the deaths of Vincent’s victims. Ruffalo plays Fanning as a serious, devoted cop who just wants to get justice for these crimes. Berg plays Richard Weidner, who is Fanning’s partner. In the screen time given, Berg gives a solid performance that is good as Ruffalo’s. Pinkett Smith, as Annie Farrell, is beautiful, sophisticated, and determined. In the scenes she’s in, Smith manages to bring a lot of depth to Annie, despite the limited amount of screen time. That said, Smith is a good fit for the character.


Visually speaking, Collateral looks great from beginning to end. Mann captures the dark, gritty side of Los Angeles with wide-angle shots of the city. Mann also films Collateral with tight framing and wide-angle shots, offering viewers a variation of shots presented onscreen. In the scenes featuring Max and Vincent in the cab, Mann captures close, tight shots of their faces. These scenes allow viewers to study the characters’ reactions from certain events in the film. Additionally, Mann shoots the action sequences with handheld cinematography to keep up with the fast movements of the characters. For example, in the nightclub scene, Vincent is targeting a man who is on his kill list. Vincent quickly moves through the crowds of people to get to this person. The camera is positioned in a way for it to capture him at every moment. The good cinematography combined with the fast-paced music make the nightclub scene the most memorable sequence in the entire film. Under Mann’s good direction, Collateral is a well-filmed movie with good action sequences and stunning cinematography.

Collateral is one of the best films ever made. The film perfectly blends the crime-drama, action, and suspense genres and turns it into a unique crime epic. Thanks to the great screenplay, direction, action sequences, and performances, Collateral makes for a brilliant movie that everyone should see.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Images from:

  1. first Collateral image:
  2. second Collateral image: Entertainment Weekly
  3. third Collateral image: The Non-Submersible Units
  4. fourth Collateral image:
  5. fifth Collateral image:
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