“Collateral” – Nathan’s Movie Challenge, Week 4
“Take comfort in knowing you never had a choice.”
Now this was a pleasant surprise.
I’ve got nothing but love for most of the films I’ve seen starring Tom Cruise. This is the first time I’ve seen him as the villain, and boy did he deliver. Not only do you sort of respect and like him – despite the terrible acts he commits – but you understand him. It’s a job. He’s good at it. He’s got a method that works. There’s nothing better than an antagonist that you kind of root for.
Everything about this movie was wonderful – impeccable pacing, elevated tension, and Jamie Foxx carries the complex role of cab driver to hero miraculously well. The cinematography is stunning – despite being the very first major Hollywood feature shot on an HD camera instead of film. The L.A. skyline is a character unto itself – compressing the palpable pressure Max (Foxx) and Vincent (Cruise) are under to make it through the night. The yellow street lights shine off the cab and city streets to create a colored mood that elegantly bathes the actors and scenery in warmth – something that actually now isn’t possible due to L.A. replacing their lights with LEDs.
The score by James Newton Howard is also really remarkable – rising with energy when needed, and setting a cool tonal undercurrent when the dialogue is taking center stage. I noticed and enjoyed it multiple times throughout, rather than how I find so many films instead use it as background noise.
It’s not quite as superb as my favorite Michael Mann film, Heat, but it’s now certainly my runner-up. This is a great start to Week 4.
Side note: If you like Collateral, you might actually also like 2014’s The Purge: Anarchy – which has a similarly “likable hitman in the city at night” vibe.
Collateral was at the time of this review at #511 on my Flickchart list of shame (ranked #850 among the best movies of all time). Here’s how it entered my chart:
Collateral vs. Ghosts of the Abyss
I’m a fan of James Cameron’s Titanic documentaries, but Collateral is definitely a better film.
Collateral vs. Limitless
I really dug Limitless for its intriguing premise and exceptional roles by Bradley Cooper and Robert DeNiro. Still – not as cool or as well executed as Collateral.
Collateral vs. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
It’s very hard to push aside my adoration for Spock taking care of the obnoxious punk, Kirk saving the whales, or Scotty trying to use a mouse, but let’s be real – it’s not as good as Collateral.
Collateral vs. Looper
There’s so much to love about Looper – the total shift in tone halfway through, the fantastic performance by child actor Pierce Gagnon, or the believable future settings Rian Johnson created. It brings me so much hope that he’ll knock his upcoming Star Wars film out of the park. It wins over Collateral.
Collateral vs. Casablanca
I’m not usually one for the classics, but like Citizen Kane, if there’s any one film that deserves the hype – it’s Casablanca. It’ll win over Collateral.
Collateral vs. Zodiac
Anyone who knows me will certainly know I’m a huge Fincher fan, and there’s a ton of really amazing elements to Zodiac, but pitted up against Collateral – it’s not nearly as tight or effective a film. Collateral wins.
Collateral vs. Black Swan
Another director that has always impressed me is Darren Aronofsky. His ballerina-horror-thriller Black Swan was my third favorite film of 2010 (behind Inception and The Social Network). I’m tempted to be swayed both sides on this pairing, but I’m overall more impressed with Mann’s film – which really says something about how much I like it.
Collateral vs. Oldboy
Oldboy is an anomaly. A script so good, with performances so strong, and shot so well, that it pushes it into that upper-echelon of filmmaking that few others can match. As cool as Collateral is, it’s not going to beat Oldboy.
Collateral vs. Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure
I fully realize that nostalgia for a time when I was young and impressionable is pulling Bill & Ted over Collateral – but you have to understand. I was obsessed with their Excellent Adventure. Between it and Back to the Future, my life-long love of all things time travel was firmly cemented. It’s a movie that’ll always be a cherished memory of my youth, and that’s powerful stuff, dude.
Collateral vs. Super 8
J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg made this movie for me. I wish there were a thousand more like it. Super 8 wins over Collateral.
Collateral vs. Cloverfield
An always-debated film, Cloverfield works for me in ways that few other movies do. Its ability to draw you in and sit you beside the most terrifying event you could imagine is unparalleled. It’s my favorite found footage movie by far – other than the originator, The Blair Witch Project. I get goosebumps every time I watch Cloverfield. It’s going to sit just above Collateral.
Collateral is now proudly sitting at #137 out of 1357 movies on my Best Movies of All-Time chart.
Up next is The Rocketeer and Frequency. Take a look at all the other movies I’ve ranked in the challenge thus far.