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Thoughts On Collateral


Kyoshiro
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I think this movie has more meaning than people think. Superficially it appears like just another action movie, but it knowingly uses these clichéd plot elements and cool slick action to make you think about our society, life and death. Things that caught my attention:

My friend commented on how silly it was that at the end, in the face off where Max kills Vincent, the trained assassin with plenty of experience lost. But did Vincent want to kill Max? If you look carefully, Max fires wildly into the glass but Vincent calmly and carefully shoots only 3 bullets into the metal. Did he miss? Well the bullet dents in the metal were 2 at chest level inches apart, 1 at head level, just like his other victims as the guy in the morgue commented on to the detective.

One major comment in the movie is the hypocrisy of caring about people dying only when you are faced with it in reality, when you know and see the person in real. There’s no escaping the truth of Vincent’s words about 1 person dying on his cab making Max more distressed than genocide. This is reinforced even more later on when Vincent kills several cops to save Max’s life in the club, but outside when he kills Fanning the detective Max is all upset about it. Why should he be more upset about that one detective than all the other cops? Because he knew the detective’s name? Because the detective believed him? Killing off the stereotypical good guy in such a casual manner is unconventional to expectations of good guys never dying or dying a larger than life heroic or overblown death.

People’s penchant for believing what they want to believe by having certain prejudices or expectations is also explicitly commented on through Max’s mum but also in more subtle ways. Some say the ending is predictable, that the last victim would be the girl from the beginning and that Max would save her. And what are the chances of his next fare being the hitman? Typically Hollywood. But I think Vincent’s comment when Max asks him why he hasn’t killed him yet is something about “fates intertwined, cosmic coincidence” to which Max says he’s full of shit. Vincent’s reply is that Max is a monument of shit, that he’s been bullshitting himself believing that Vincent is killing bad people, taking out the garbage. Max says “that’s what you said” to which Vincent replies “you believed me?”. I think the irony here and the relevance to the predictably Hollywood scenario is that we are Max, saying how predictable and unlikely the story is and yet we buy that kind of thing all the time. As my friend pointed out, the whole bit meeting the girl at the beginning could easily have been avoided so it wouldn’t be so cheesy, he could’ve got her number and adress from that tablet PC in the cab after the crash then rang her up to save her. But my answer is that had he not known her why would he have tried to save her? He didn’t try to save the other victims. Because he thought they were evil men and Vincent was “taking out the garbage”? Like Vincent said, there is no good or bad reason, only why. I think this scenario was kept as a knowing reference to the predictability of movies and how easily we believe these kind of things, which Vincent and Max’s conversation mentioned earlier comments on, and also as another example of only caring about something when you know the person.

The scene where Max pretends to be Vincent is also another example of seeing what we want to see, the superficiality of our beliefs. Our impressions of other people really are so superficial, what people expect of us shapes what we become, and what we are shapes what people expect of us. We are all conformists, whether we like to believe it or not. Which answers my question about why the producers chose to make Tom Cruise look like he does. He could’ve looked a lot cooler if he wanted to, in a black suit and trousers that aren’t too short for him, not to mention dye his hair black. But then that’s what we’d expect a hitman to look like, why would a hitman want to look like a hitman?

The wolf crossing the road in the middle of the city also has some meaning I haven’t really thought about. That scene generally reflects on the kind of artificial feeling of society, focussing on the advertisement on top of the cab, contemplative shots of city lights scrolling by etc… I guess the wolf just represents nature we’ve lost touch with in our modern world.

In general the movie makes you question our notions of human life and death, why we care about certain things and what we really do care about. Why did Vincent, a professional assassin, care so much about Max he saved his life? Why does Max care so much about one person in 6 billion? Does he really care? He doesn’t even know the person. Why does he care when he does know the person?

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You raise some very interesting points but as it's late I just want to say that Collateral was my favourite movie from 2004. I watch quite a few movies and I thought Collateral was an absolutely stunning film. The two leads, the cinematography, the soundtrack, all top notch.

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I'm like neemo - it's late, so I'll just say it was one of my favourite movies of 2004 (just beaten by Lost In Translation). Brilliant acting, gorgeous cinematography, and a soundtrack which features one of the finest renditions of Bach's "Air" I've ever heard (which, happily, is on the CD soundtrack).

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My friend commented on how silly it was that at the end, in the face off where Max kills Vincent, the trained assassin with plenty of experience lost. But did Vincent want to kill Max? If you look carefully, Max fires wildly into the glass but Vincent calmly and carefully shoots only 3 bullets into the metal. Did he miss? Well the bullet dents in the metal were 2 at chest level inches apart, 1 at head level, just like his other victims as the guy in the morgue commented on to the detective.

Nice post - lot's of interesting stuff. I've highlighted that one point because it drives me nuts how many times I've heard people complain about that part (I work in a video shop, and get plenty of wallys there :) ), but like you say, it's Vincent's methodical, execution-style shots that let him down.

Collateral was also one of my favourite films of 2004. But I guess I'm stuck explaining that point to people returning the film for a while yet... :wub:

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but like you say, it's Vincent's methodical, execution-style shots that let him down.

Kind of like how Neil McCauley's perfectionism in Heat (spoiler) is what kills him. Notice how he shoots Waingro in the same way near the end?

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I thought it was utterly superb. I still confused as to why it received such a muted response. Brilliant performances from Cruise and Foxx (and everyone else to be honest), stunning direction/cinematography and a great script.

I bloody loved it, I found Cruise completely fascinating.

I also found the film strangely moving, for reasons I can't quite put my finger on. There are lots of beautfiul moments, for instance the wolves crossing the road. I also love the whole interplay between Max and Vincent. I love the way Max rejects Vincent's (apparent) nihlism.

Oh, I recommend you all listen to the directors commentary, it's really good.

I wish more movies would use this hi-def film, LA looks fucking amazing in this movie.

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I really liked the look and feel of the film aswell. It felt "clammy" and uncomofortable most of the way through apart from those bits where we were looking down on the road grid. I really liked those bits.

There is a school of thought which states that Tom Cruise cannot look anonymous. I'd disagree. I think he needs to have screen presence to pull off the character.

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I wasn't too keen on that bit with the foxes crossing the road. Not symbolically, like, but when "Shadow On The Sun" kicked in, it seemed far too much like a music video, with the music drowning out all other sounds.

I'm odd like that.

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Ok when I saw that scene. The person with me was like, "Is that a wolf?"

"I dunno.. fox?... not a hyena".

"Do you even get them in LA?"

"Dunno, what's it doing out on the street anyway?"

"Dunno..."

I take it we weren't being DEEP enough?

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One thing i did not like about the film was the music.... me and a friend watched it and fucking hell the music (score) was so fucking loud compared to the rest of the film. ack!

With regards to the end scene: (only seen the film once so forgive if this sounds crap): How come Cruise did not just reload his gun. Yes he empties, reaches for the mag on his belt and he's using the security guards gun and so the mag dont fit...ergo give up and die. Why not just take a round from his mag, manually load it into the breach of the other gun and pop Jamie in the head. Game Over. Of course my theory is fux0red if the guns are different calibres :P

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I thought he reaches for a clip, slides it into the gun and it drops out and he smiles as he realises Jamie has his gun..... and that he is using the security guards gun. Maybe someone spiked my peanut M&Ms

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I thought he reaches for a clip, slides it into the gun and it drops out and he smiles as he realises Jamie has his gun..... and that he is using the security guards gun. Maybe someone spiked my peanut M&Ms

Surely the clip that slid out was the empty one that he had just used? I dunno, I'm usually wrong about these things, anyway.

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And there is no way in hell that our mild mannered cab driver should have pulled that off.

But Max clearly develops throughout the film - at the start, we see how despite his best laid plans, he just doesn't have the guts to go through with the Limo company and change his life. In their conversations and through the events of the night, Max starts off being submissive to Vincent before finally standing up to him, crashing the cab and trying to stop his assignment. He doesn't hesitate to shoot Vincent in the office building, either.

If you're talking about the ending shoot-out, read the original post - he succeeds only because Vincent's professional execution-style shots hit the middle metal part of the train door as it closes, while Max's wild shots hit Vincent through the windows at the side.

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Collateral varied from very good to frankly, dire.

Cruise is simply excellent whilst Jamie Foxx couldn't act if you put a gun to his head

Eh? That statement is very, very wrong. Foxx was nominated for best supporting actor for Collateral and won best actor for Ray!

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I can’t be arsed arguing this point again, but…

Pressing a random taxi driver into service on a series of contract hits strikes me as grossly unprofessional and imprudent. It introduces a host of unnecessary and potentially grave complications into an already dangerous and dicey undertaking. Why do it?

So Vincent received the brief at the last minute - so fucking what? That hardly justifies taking the hits. A decent hit man would have walked away.

My only problem: they didn’t set up WHY he took so many chances. Yes, the guy is cocksure and a big head, but that’s no excuse. He isn’t stupid. Why risk your life anymore than you have to?

(Collateral was in my top five films of last year, so I'm just voicing a niggle. I really, really liked the film.)

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Pressing a random taxi driver into service on a series of contract hits strikes me as grossly unprofessional and imprudent. It introduces a host of unnecessary and potentially grave complications into an already dangerous and dicey undertaking. Why do it?

I think that's the question that should be discussed, not the predictability of the ending. Why does a trained killer with no respect for human life care so much about Max?

I may be reading too much into this, but I don't think about meanings in movies unless they give me a reason to. While watching the movie I wasn't thinking about what would happen in the ending, how cool that action scene was, I was thinking about the points the movie was making and the way it conveyed it which I find to be rather clever. Who watches American Psycho and thinks it's just another good horror movie? Does the movie (collateral) not make interesting points about things like morals? At the end when he says he does this for a living, is that just a line uttered for the sake of saying something? Is the story of the guy dying on the train without anyone noticing for 6 rounds just a little anecdote?

I guess if I was feeling less philosophical at the time it would just be another good action movie but it really struck a chord with me at the time for some reason.

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I can’t be arsed arguing this point again, but…

Pressing a random taxi driver into service on a series of contract hits strikes me as grossly unprofessional and imprudent. It introduces a host of unnecessary and potentially grave complications into an already dangerous and dicey undertaking. Why do it?

Had the body not fallen out the window onto Max's car he would have been none the wiser. Sounds like a bloody good plan to me if you're gonna be in town less than 6 hours.

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I think that's the question that should be discussed, not the predictability of the ending. Why does a trained killer with no respect for human life care so much about Max?

I got the feeling that Vincent genuinely thought Max was a good guy. Presumably Vincent had taken taxi's around on hits before (Fanning even mentioned such an incident) but never involved the taxi driver before. I think the fact that they were 'in this together', so to speak, made him take a shine to Max over the course of the night.

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Had the body not fallen out the window onto Max's car he would have been none the wiser. Sounds like a bloody good plan to me if you're gonna be in town less than 6 hours.

Still doesn't make sense -- not in real world terms. There's NO COMPELLING reason to use a cabbie in a situation like this. It simply complicates matters futher.

What was the plan anyway?

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nah, even if it was empty it would still slide home. It fell cos it was a mag for another gun.

Hmm, from what I remember, the clip that fell out was one he was ejecting when it emptied after firing the bullets at Max, and then when he went to his belt for another clip, there wasn't one there...

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Hmm, from what I remember, the clip that fell out was one he was ejecting when it emptied after firing the bullets at Max, and then when he went to his belt for another clip, there wasn't one there...

you know man, maybe i should watch the fuckin film again :)

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Still doesn't make sense -- not in real world terms. There's NO COMPELLING reason to use a cabbie in a situation like this. It simply complicates matters futher.

What was the plan anyway?

Well I suppose the basic plan is, you get the cabbie to drive you to the hits. You quietly dispose of whoever they are and on you go. When you arrive at the airport you put a hole in the cabbie's head and off you go. Seems pretty tidy to me. And beats taking the bus. ;)

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Cruise should have just asked Jason Statham to ferry him around at the start. (As we know from The Transporter, he's quite handy at the wheel). "Hey, thanks for the briefcase. Say, you couldn't give me a lift could ya?"

Job done.

Seriously though, going back to Vincent's fumbling with the ereplacement clip, I think that's all it is. He goes for another full clip only to get it from his belt and drop it. He can't grip it because he's taken a couple of shots to the chest. His motor skills ain't what they used to be.

As for the coyotes, I'm not sure what it symbolises but it's definitely supposed to mean something, it feels so... forced. On the commentary, Mann refers to the territorial attitude of the coyotes, their cocksure walk and how the the two men contemplate this before 'engaging in mortal combat'. Vincent and Max have been introduced to each other's worlds (the cab is Max's domain, Vincent's lifestyle is his).

I don't believe Vincent ever intends to kill Max. Just before the 'deep' coyote bit, Vincent asks if Max is gonna call 'that girl' implying that Max will live after tonight. Obviously this is before the club sequence and before max flips out, crashing the cab.

I think it's churlish to call Foxx a bad actor. He more than holds his own in this film. His reaction to the dead man on his cab rooftop may be a bit too rehearsed but the rest of his performance is great.

It would be an even greater film if it went with a darker ending, an ending it deserves.

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