Film review by: Witney Seibold
I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it until things change: I hate digital film. I hate the projections, I hate the way it looks, I hate the way it’s deified by Hollywood. Other film styles less common than the typical 35mm that you see in the theater at the very least have an aesthetic to them. Digital makes amateur… amateur again. That said, I will say that Michael Mann’s new thriller “Collateral,” while shot mostly on digital, and hence a little ugly to my over-discerning eye, is actually a rather engaging film. Not only is the tension nice and thick, and the unbelievable parts that are usual territory for this genre made a little less unbelievable by Mann’s skillful, raw direction, but the two leads, Jamie Foxx and Tom Cruise give some of the more astonishing performances of their careers.
Max (Foxx) has been working temporarily as a cabbie for the last 12 years. He dreams of owning a limo company. We open very slowly into the hot streets of L.A. Max, and this is unexpected for a thriller, spends the first half hour of the film chatting up a young DA (Jada Pinkett-Smith). It’s a surprisingly good way to begin a thriller. After he drops her off, he picks up Vincent (Cruise), a man who asks him to drive him to several points around town that night while he runs his errands.
A falling body soon indicates that said errands are hits, and Max is quietly forced into driving around the hitman. Peter Berg and Mark Ruffalo have roles as cops.
The script for this film is actually a little dumb. As the characters match wits, there are some trite philosophical rantings that would have seemed in-place in a Mamet film, but here seem forced. What saves the film is Mann’s taut, knowing direction and the two leads. Foxx proves that he has grown past his goofy comedy beginnings (I remember him as an ugly woman on “In Living Color”), and may be an acting force to reckon. Cruise is perfect as Vincent, with his sardonicus and pretty-boy verve. This is his first time playing an out-and-out villain, and he needs to do it more often.