Forgive me if I’m wrong, but driving a taxi looks like a monotonous time. No wonder Collateral needed to throw in an assassin to keep things lively, I’d bet most taxi drivers wish they could receive the thrills on display throughout this Michael Mann directed film. Following Max (Jamie Foxx) as he settles into a usual nightshift, Collateral sees him pick-up Vincent (Tom Cruise) an elusive man in a slick suit that gives out protagonist $600 to drive him around for most of the night. A rather simplistic premise takes aim at some conventional thrills of the genre in what is an essential thriller that pairs up two of the all-time greats.
Cruise and Foxx have such incredible chemistry together, it’s amazing to see how they bounce back off of one another with relative ease. Cruise has the charm and confidence, the cool-headed killer in the back of a taxi, whilst Foxx provides a host for the audience, as Max adapts to his new surroundings and variously dangerous scenarios, the audience does too. Frankly, their performances are great. Instances of perfection flash before them, and they occasionally match-up with one another in a perfect blend of their abilities on-screen. Most of these great moments come around the build-up to the climax. Max and Vincent are at their best when squaring off against one another, but also looking out for each other in a case of immediate Stockholm syndrome. Vincent teaching Max how to stand up for himself, Max covering for Vincent in times of great stress. It’s the perfect blend that keeps both characters engaged, switched-on, and crucially brilliant.
Mann’s direction here is a real tour de force, a show-stopping achievement for his career thus far. Far exceeding that of his capabilities in Heat, he gives us a rollercoaster ride here that depends entirely on the two leading performances presented. Artistically meritable, but never getting in-between his characters and their objectives, Mann applies the tools of his trade with a gentile care unlike anything I’ve seen in quite some time. His authorial voice never comes through, he lets his performers ease their way into their roles and it makes for a thoroughly thrilling time as he keeps his camera steady and his dialogue flowing.
Collateral showcases Cruise, Foxx and Mann all working at the peak of their careers. They pool together such a tantalising narrative, with memorable scenes and tense moments around every corner. I’m not sure I could name the last time Cruise impressed me this much, he’s cast perfectly here, every scene that features him is a real delight. We rarely get to see Cruise go for a fully antagonistic role, and after trudging my way through the likes of Rain Man, Top Gun, Cocktail and All the Presidents Men, it was thoroughly refreshing to see that he has what it takes to play a contemptible villain.
The right place at the right time, that’s how Collateral feels. I’m dubious as to whether or not a different set of actors could pull this one off with such finesse and dedication, but I wouldn’t want anyone but Cruise and Foxx lighting the way in this one. Marvellously performed, directed to near-perfection and featuring a fair share of memorable, tense moments make Collateral a great entrant into the drama/thriller hybrid genre.