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Thread: Collateral

  1. #1
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    Aug 2002
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    Collateral

    This year’s submission in the Tom Cruise Oscar grab is a stylized noir thriller from director Michael Mann, whose previous entries in the genre (“Heat”, “Thief”) were bloated and derivative. Things aren’t much better now: Mann’s still derivative, though this time less of the subtle noir of the Forties than of modern gangster epics such as Brian DePalma’s “Scarface” with their razzle-dazzle nightclub shootouts. He might think he’s making a small, intimate picture built on performances, but by encouraging underacting, he’s actually oversizing the effect, with Cruise’s megawatt star power unable to keep a lid on things; the movie gets louder and less interesting as it progresses. Cruise plays a hired assassin who employs a reticent cabbie (Jamie Foxx) to squire him to five various hits around Los Angeles. In writer Stuart Beattie’s hands, there isn’t much tension—you can see the structure of his screenplay from the first scene and the action set pieces seem baked in solely for Beattie and Mann to advance the dull interplay between Foxx and Cruise which spirals into conversations that inevitably boil down to the dreaded “existential” despair that made “Thief” and “Heat” so unbearable. The film’s meant to showcase the city’s dark side but doesn’t (Ken Russell’s “Whore” and Quentin Tarentino’s “Pulp Fiction” do a better job of that) because of Mann’s fussy concentration on fitting Cruise into his visual scheme: he sports a short salt-and-pepper haircut and wears a gray suit, in line with Mann’s sleek, blue-steeled, fluorescent building interiors (though certain scenes incorporate the neon that was emblematic of Mann’s TV series “Miami Vice”). Cruise is competent as usual, doing everything he can to keep his Vincent enigmatic, yet he only sporadically compels the audience’s curiosity about his backstory. Foxx, as the driver, is better, though he’s saddled with Beattie’s caricature: his docile dreamer Max gets to be an outraged black man when he’s able to seize the opportunity, which has the unfortunate effect of making what was supposed to be a brooding noir seem more like a self-actualization course.

  2. #2
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    Aug 2002
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    Lost in Translation Controversy

    As with Lost In Translation that was loved by some and hated by others, Collateral offers up the same type of reaction in my mind. I found Tom Cruise's performance Oscar caliber and the entire movie an expansion on Michael Mann's earlier and one of the my all time favorite movies "Manhunter." The whole interaction between Cruise and Foxx is compelling for me. The focus on the criminal persona was fascinating and intriguing. The turn of events towards the end has the audience, uneasily twisting between good and evil. Like Hannibal Lector's character, Cruise is both charming, likeable, but yet sinister and dark - a much more complex character than Anthony Hopkins had to play. Jamie Foxx is just as compelling for his entrance into drama from comedy and his entrance is splendid.

    The stylistic approach to this gangster, crime thriller that brings us along is done in a more gritty fashion, more dirty, realistic camerawork that puts other films into their more mundane, ordinary boxes. The music pulsates and enhances the moments, the script and performances bring us into the more nuanced characterization of roles that are so often sacrificed for action and thrills. This meaty, substantive crime thrillers shoots a bullseye for good performance and plot not for mainstream audiences looking for exciting entertainment.

  3. #3
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    Oozing coolness, Mann maintains focus mostly

    Like a hard working air conditioner this movie has coolness dripping off it. It is well shot, expertly edited and the performances are good. The film starts slowly introducing only the characters it needs. The movie has very little fat from a narrative point of view. "Collateral" builds to a better climax than Mann's earlier L.A. Story "Heat". The tension level is established early but the stakes continue to rise. In another director's hands it would quickly become preposterous, but a stable and focused approach keeps the suspension of disbelief at acceptable levels. I think many scenes were shot on HD video. Foxx shows a good range and doesn't overplay his part. Cruise is, well Cruise. It's nice to see him play the bad guy. But he isn't strictly a traditional heavy. In the movie he is a sort of anti-villain, seemingly a devil/angel on the shoulder of Foxx. Similar to DeNiro's character in "Heat" you don't really root against him except when it comes to the main conflict between he and the protagonist, Foxx.

    One of the main characters of this film is Los Angeles, and Mann doesn't skimp on the cheesecloth while showing the city. He must truly love the city of Los Angeles, because through his lens it looks loads better than it really does. I can understand his love of roads, freeways, and the mechanical and stark look of a city at night because I share it in a way.

    A modern city is a wonder of the world. It is a testament to the combined wills of millions of people. The way it looks and lives tells us much about it's residents. I think the director and writer attempt to capture this important element in "Collateral".

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