Collateral (dir. Michael Mann, 2004)

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Date: Jan. 2005
From: Film & History(Vol. 35, Issue 1)
Publisher: Center for the Study of Film and History
Document Type: Critical essay
Length: 1,109 words
Lexile Measure: 1490L

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Audiences probably think they know what they are going to get from Collateral. The Hollywood one-phrase pitches come easily: "Tom Cruise as an older villain" or "Die Hard in a cab." Here we see examples of the formula for producing a hit: take an established megastar and cast him in a "new role" but one that still lets him be his thoroughly recognizable (star) self; or, work in a familiar and popular genre and modify it in only the tiniest manner. In either case, for good measure, throw in a famous and commercially successful director (e.g. Michael Mann). No wonder then, that both the trailers for the film and the early press reports made Collateral out to be nothing more than another Tom Cruise film--"but this time he has gray hair!"

Thankfully, someone forgot to tell Michael Mann to follow the textbook. Almost always working outside of the syllabus, Mann turns Collateral against genre and star expectations at every turn, producing along the way a subtle and sophisticated movie about the human condition--about relationships, meaning, and potential. In what might be read as an effort to tap into the very audience expectations described above, Mann opens the film on Cruise (though at a distance, through the crowds), with a brief scene that shows Vincent exchanging bags with a stranger in the airport. The movie then makes the most important turn of all: it simply leaves Tom Cruise behind. For the next twelve minutes of screen time the viewer is transferred into the taxicab of Max (Jamie Foxx), as he meticulously goes about his work as cab driver, and eventually carries a fare, Annie (Jada Pinkett Smith) downtown...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A156292365