Published Aug 01, 2004You have to hand it to Tom Cruise. In recent years, the actor seems to be paying more and more attention to the creative aspect of his work, aligning himself with a slew of respected directors (Spielberg, Kubrick, P.T. Anderson) to create a varied resume of interesting films. Though some of these films did not work (Eyes Wide Shut and Vanilla Sky had their share of critics), they did at least bring respectability to an actor once doomed to permanently enjoy roles in which he played an against-all-odds professional (be it lawyer, spy, pilot, agent, etc.).
Cruise continues this trend with Michael Mann's Collateral, in which he plays way against type (and dawns silver hair, as it seems each time Cruise plays a bad guy his hair has to drastically change) as Vincent, a contract killer. The entire film takes place in the course of one night in which Vincent hires unknowing L.A. cab driver Max (Jamie Foxx, whose role actually has more screen time than Cruise's) to drive him around as he kills off the people on his hit list.
The film mixes genres well as it goes back and forth between being a well-designed thriller to possessing the qualities of a dark buddy comedy. Cruise and Foxx have great chemistry, and each give an excellent performance that doesn't overshadow the others. Cruise has a vivid energy that never goes over the top, while Foxx effectively portrays Max with subtle detail. But it is Michael Mann's direction that truly makes the film.
Shot mostly on high-speed digital cameras, the film's dark and stylish cinematography fits perfectly. The fast-paced editing keeps the audience in tow as Mann drags them, like Max, into Vincent's dark world. Collateral is an exceptionally intelligent and dark film to open during the summer blockbuster season, but hopefully Cruise's drawing power will bring audiences to a movie that is well worth the admission price. (Dreamworks/Universal)