Best of the Decade List #10: Collateral
I love making lists when it comes to movies. I make a best of the year list every year, and this year’s list will be coming soon. I just need to finish up seeing some much anticipated films. Anyway, this year is special because it marks the end of the decade. Since I only get to do this once every ten years (duh!), I thought it was quite necessary to make a list of my favorite movies of the past decade. I’m going to try to post one movie from my list each day for the rest of the year… just to keep you in suspense.
My choice for #10:
Michael Mann established himself as an elite filmmaker in the 1990’s, crafting two bona fide masterpieces in Heat and The Insider. However, his output in the 2000’s was mostly sub par by his standards. While Ali was good enough to earn Will Smith an Oscar nomination, Miami Vice was instantly forgettable and Public Enemies was disappointing. The decade’s saving grace comes in the form 2004’s Collateral, which quite possibly could be Mann’s finest film.
This action/thriller stars Jamie Foxx as an unfortunate Los Angeles taxi driver who becomes trapped in a series of murders after picking up a hit man, played by Tom Cruise in one of his most underrated roles. Foxx is fantastic in this movie, giving a career-making performance that gave him credibility as a legitimate actor. Cruise is equally good as the menacing villain. As much as Denzel Washington was praised for going against type in Training Day, Cruise was even more underappreciated for his turn as the machine-like killer in Collateral.
While Cruise and Foxx both turn in Oscar-caliber performances, the real star of the show might be Michael Mann. His masterful shots of late-night Los Angeles add tension to an already chaotic situation. The splashes of the traffic lights’ reds and greens against the dark sky and blacktop, the overhead of the late night traffic and the moody soundtrack add to the intensity of the plot. The shot variety in Foxx’s cab makes us feel just as trapped as the frantic taxi driver.
The interplay inside the car is always entertaining, but my favorite moments in the film occur at the film’s climax. Tom Cruise is at his best here, taking on a persona similar to that of a horror film serial killer. He seems unstoppable, like Jason Vorhees or Michael Myers. Say what you want about Tom Cruise, but it is impossible to deny that he is one of our generation’s finest actors. This film is further proof of that and truly shows his versatility as a performer.