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DVD Reviews

HTF REVIEW: Collateral

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#1 of 61 OFFLINE   Michael Elliott

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Posted December 20 2004 - 02:56 PM

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Studio: Dreamworks
Year: 2004
Rated: R
Film Length: 120 minutes
Aspect Ratio: Widescreen (2.40:1)
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1, Dolby Surround
Subtitles: Spanish, English, French
Retail Price: $27.95

A cab driver named Max (Jamie Foxx) picks up a ride (Jada Pinkett Smith) and the two starts chatting on the way to her workplace. Along the way we get to learn a lot about Max but after the young woman gets out, a man named Vincent (Tom Cruise) enters the cab and the rest of the night is full of surprises. Vincent offers Max seven hundred dollars if he’ll drive him around for the rest of the night and since this is double what Max usually brings home, he accepts the job. Vincent tells him he has five stops, which is true but what Max doesn’t know is that Vincent is a professional killer who has five people to kill before six in the morning.

In a recent thread here people were discussing if newer movies were as good as older one and this debate will happen ever so often. Most people, including myself, claim older movies are a lot better than the ones of today due in large part because everything being done today has been done before so we don’t often get anything original or anything that will take us for a ride. I certainly believe in this here but at the same time I think you can take the most unoriginal story, put it in the hands of a gifted director and end up with some special.

Michael Mann’s Collateral certainly isn’t anything original and I think you could say a lot of it’s routine but the director certainly knows how to tell a story and mix in his whole style that the viewer can throw the unoriginality out the window, sit back and just enjoy the ride. There have been countless films dealing with hit men, their unexpected guests and the police chasing them so in that aspect, Collateral is by the books. However, just like the director’s Heat, this film takes the ordinary setup in different directions and adds a layer that we’re not use to seeing and in that way, the movie becomes something on its own.

You could select one-hundred directors working in Hollywood today and I’d guess at least ninety-eight of them would have turned this movie into a non-stop action film without for a second trying to tell a story. As in the director’s previous film Heat, Mann really isn’t too interested in all the killings but instead he tries to get into the mind of this cold blooded killer and the hostage he is taking along for the ride. The screenplay by Stuart Beattie is full of wonderful dialogue, which takes us from one killing to the next. After each killing the two men come to terms with their current situation and their actions go from there.

Two scenes that really jump out include one where Cruise forces Foxx to go to the hospital and visit his sick mother. How many other action dramas would have taken a time out to do such a thing? Not many but by allowing this scene to take place we get to know more about Cruise and Foxx’s characters, which is very important in upcoming scenes. Another scene is in a jazz club where fan Cruise gets to chat with a guy who worked with Miles Davis. Again, the action and suspense built by the director takes a backseat so we can learn more about the two characters and again, this here eventually pays off in later scenes. I won’t ruin this second scene for you but it’s a rather heartbreaking one that has so much stuff going in it that like the Foxx character, Cruise becomes another object after this.

The screenplay is a big key here as is the direction but the real benefit is the two leading actors who turn in some of the best work of their careers. Cruise in my opinion is this generations Paul Newman, an actor who can constantly stay popular and draw in the crowds but at the same time he’s not afraid to take on darker subjects. The big buzz surrounding this film is that Cruise would be playing a killer and he pulls that off quite well and for the first time in his career, he actually plays a fairly frightening son of a bitch. Most actors would have constantly been screaming in order to build suspense but Cruise takes the right note by playing everything calm and collective. By playing the role this way the viewer knows very well that this guy means business and knows exactly what he’s doing. With this in mind, we don’t see the loveable Cruise playing a bad guy but instead we see a rather scary killer doing his job.

The real key is Jamie Foxx however, who manages to match Cruise step for step and it will be a shame if the Academy didn’t recognize his performance. There’s no doubt people will be drawn to this film for Cruise and the story itself could have let the viewer draw sides with Cruise but Foxx is so good in getting every point across that he’s able to take the film over and have the viewer rooting for him instead of American’s most loved actor. Had Foxx not delivered a top-notch performance than the film would have lost all meaning and the dialogue and story probably would have been thrown in the back seat to Cruise playing the bad guy.

The one major flaw with the film occurs at the end when the dialogue is thrown away and we’re left with a big chase scene through the subway, which is something done way too many times and nothing new is brought to the story here. The film could have ended in so many different ways that it’s a shame we had to go out like this but even with that said, Cruise, Foxx and Mann has created a very special film that should have a long life just like various thrillers from the past. Collateral is the perfect example of a routine story being brought to life by actors doing their job and a director taking the story in different directions.

VIDEO---The movie is shown widescreen (2.40:1) and is enhanced for 16x9 TVs. It’s interesting to note that no P&S version is available and if you look at the back of the DVD case you’ll notice Dreamworks has stated this on the widescreen version. Seeing as how sales were still very high on this title hopefully more studios will refuse to release P&S versions of these films.

Mann shot this using a hi-def camera so this DVD was quite anticipated because we were anxious to see how wonderful it would look on disc and quite frankly, this is certainly one of the greatest transfers out there. This transfer is so stellar that I have no doubt people will be very happy whether they’re viewing this on a standard television or playing it projected. Being the first film of its type, the transfer has a wonderful, detailed look, which thankfully isn’t damaged by any edge enhancement. Being shot hi-def, the most impressive thing is all the detail in every shot of the film. By being shot this way, we are getting to see colors that we normally wouldn’t have seen had the film been shot on film. For the most part Mann shoots the film with a very subdued look, which comes across looking very natural without any problems. Whenever the colors light up a bit more, like in the club scene at the end, the colors leap off the screen like no other transfer. The clearness and detail is quite remarkable and there are several moments where you’ll want to pause the film and admire what you’re looking at. Flesh tones also look natural throughout. Being digital, there’s some softness and grain added to the transfer but this here was done intentional.

AUDIO---We get Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround and DTS 5.1 tracks for this release. Over the past year I’ve been noticing the lack of a difference between the 5.1 and DTS tracks and the same continues with this release. Dialogue is the most important thing in the film and this here comes off sounding very nice and crisp without any problems. The dialogue is upfront, heavy and very clear throughout. It’s mixed in perfectly well later in the movie whenever the action picks up. The dialogue never gets buried in the background and even if loud shots are going off, the dialogue remains strong. I’m not sure how this film sounded theatrically but I was surprised that the Surrounds weren’t better used in the film. The nightclub scene is probably the best example because you’d expect this scene to be taking place all around you but most of this is contained to the front speakers and it really doesn’t pack that much of a punch. None of the action scenes contain that big of a punch and in some ways it felt like I was watching a film from the 1970’s that had been given a new 5.1 mix. That’s not to say this is a bad track but I was expecting it to pack a bigger punch even for a dialogue driven film. The rears are used in some spots, mainly to help the film score. A French 5.1 track is also included.

EXTRAS---The only extra on disc 1 is one not listed on the back of the case. Director Michael Mann does the commentary track, which is very entertaining if you’re interested in hearing him talk about his various ideas in making the film. It would have been nice if Foxx and Cruise had joined him but Mann does a good job without giving too much dead space. It’s interesting that he starts off talking about how he wanted to try and make this film different from others of its type. As the track goes on he gets into how the actors were casted, how he wanted L.A. over NY and various other things ranging from the dialogue to accidents on the set.

Disc 2:

City of Night: The Making of Collateral: This here runs just over forty-minutes and is presented widescreen (1.85:1) and is enhanced for 16x9 TVs. This is a very entertaining documentary, which is somewhat of a compressed and more detailed version of the commentary. Once again Mann talks about what he wanted technically from the film and it’s also interesting to hear him talk about how he wrote out the life story of Vincent, so that he could get a better idea of the character. Cruise is also interviewed and goes into great detail about how he went to an ammo school so that he could be as convincing as possible. Foxx, also wanting a convincing performance, talks about taking driving lessons and interviewing various cab drivers. Also included are several behind the scenes shots with the director setting up and the cast goofing around. Up next is a deleted scene with optional commentary from the director. The scene isn’t too bad but I think people will agree with Mann on why it was cut. Special Delivery features Cruise dressed up as a delivery man, walking through a busy store without being noticed. I’m really not sure of the point in this but it was fun nonetheless. Shooting on Location: Annie’s Office runs just over two minutes and features commentary from Mann, which is different than the one running through the actual film. Visual FX again runs just over two minutes and it discusses the blue screen used during the final. Cruise & Foxx rehearsals runs nearly four-minutes and here we get to see the two actors preparing their chemistry. We get split screens of the rehearsals and what was actually used in the film and this here is something I wish more studios would include on their releases. Cast bios, production notes and trailers for Anchorman and The Bourne Supremacy are included as well. For some reason no trailer for this film is included unless I missed it somewhere.

OVERALL---This film is the perfect example of something routine being given new life by a talented director and a great cast. With the high suspense, great performances and the beautiful video quality I have no problem recommending this even as a blind buy. Dreamworks really delivered the goods with the wonderful transfer, although the sound mix is a bit strange but I’m not sure if it was meant to sound this way. The documentary and commentary are very good but the rest of the extras could have just been included in the documentary.

Release Date: Out Now

#2 of 61 OFFLINE   jonathan_govols


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Posted December 20 2004 - 03:12 PM

I was very surprised by this film. I was expecting a good film, but instead I got a GREAT film. The performances from Foxx and Cruise are the best of their careers (I haven't seen Ray) and the ending didn't bother me in the least. Possible Spoiler
The last line from Cruise was a wonderful call back to what I thought was a meaningless line earlier in the film
I would highly reccomend "Collateral" to anyone in the mood for a well done, adult thriller.

#3 of 61 OFFLINE   ZacharyTait



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Posted December 20 2004 - 04:25 PM

Great review Michael! Sitting here 10 days before the end of the year, this is still my #1 movie of the year. I anticipate getting this for Christmas.

#4 of 61 OFFLINE   Robert_eb


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Posted December 20 2004 - 05:11 PM

I rented this not knowing much about the film and was blown away by the acting and the direction of M. Mann. M. Mann has become one of my favorite directors and I'm looking forward to his future films.

#5 of 61 OFFLINE   JoshB


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Posted December 20 2004 - 05:13 PM

Also on my Christmas list too. Definately one of the best films of 2004. Highly recommended.
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#6 of 61 OFFLINE   EnricoE


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Posted December 20 2004 - 05:30 PM

michael, what do u mean by that? if you mean that was the first film shot in high def then you're wrong. the first major feature was, please correct me if i'm wrong, star wars episode 2. if you mean something else, then please explain.

#7 of 61 OFFLINE   ArthurMy


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Posted December 20 2004 - 05:35 PM

Well, since I always like to offer an opposing opinion, let me just say that I hated every minute of this film. The story was preposterous in the way that most American "action" films are these days, Cruise was ridiculously emotional for a cold-blooded and professional hit man, but I did like Jamie Foxx. For me it's Mann's worst film (although I don't love any of his movies) and to watch him in the extras going on and on pretentiously and artsily just made me sick and I had to shut off the featurettes. Attack away.Posted Image

#8 of 61 OFFLINE   Tim Glover

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Posted December 20 2004 - 06:20 PM

Nice review and great film. Posted Image

#9 of 61 OFFLINE   Sean Patrick

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Posted December 20 2004 - 08:18 PM

i got the feeling while watching this dvd that it might have been a digital-to-film-back-to-digital transfer...the grain (even if it was intentional) didn't look to me like a digital-digital. maybe i'm wrong. i thought it looked good, but on my projector it didn't look fantastic. i guess my eyes don't like films shot in digital (had the same feelings, to a greater extent, with 28 Days Later). great film, though, and a truly impressive dts track.

#10 of 61 OFFLINE   LaMarcus



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Posted December 20 2004 - 10:29 PM

I figure something must be wrong with ME versus all the people who loved/liked this film. The movie was not bad, the movie was just good, not great. I saw plot holes that kind of took me out of it at times. Everyone one raves about Fox's performance and it just doesn't stand out to me as anything special. That does not mean it was bad, it just did not seem like a 3 nomination performance, which is what he's gotten for this film. Fox and Cruise are two of my favorite actors, but when I think of them in this film my honest reaction is just "eh" *shrugs shoulders*.

#11 of 61 OFFLINE   Marc Colella

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Posted December 21 2004 - 03:27 AM

I thought it was an OK film, but it's been getting more praise then it deserves IMO. It was contrived, and really didnt offer much new - but Mann gave it a really nice feel with subtle pacing, so that salvaged it. Foxx was good, but I think people overrate his performance simply because they never expected Foxx to be decent. Cruise was playing himself again, and really didn't bring much to the role. It's a definite rental.

#12 of 61 OFFLINE   Shaun


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Posted December 21 2004 - 03:47 AM

I have to disagree here. I think the audio on this DVD was incredible. The surrounds may not have been as active as most movies, but the bass was very powerful during the action scenes. Anytime a gun was fired in this movie, it felt like I was getting punched in the chest. Very impressive.
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#13 of 61 OFFLINE   BennyD


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Posted December 21 2004 - 04:10 AM

I have to agree with Shaun. The DTS track, I haven't yet sampled the DD one, packed quite a punch with the most realistic gun shots I've ever heard. The one complaint I can make about the audio is that the musical score didn't seem to envelope as much as I remember it doing in the theater. However, since I was blown away in the theaters by the quality of the film, I might just not have been paying good attention.

#14 of 61 OFFLINE   Tim Hoover

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Posted December 21 2004 - 06:49 AM

Although the video transfer was good, I wouldn't go so far as to call it excellent. I kept seeing that video "look" for many of the scenes and found it distracting on occasion. Video has a different texture than film during scenes w/ a lot of horizontal motion, and I noticed it about 10 minutes into the movie when we finally got some brighter shots. In addition, I felt the transfer was inconsistent w/ black levels. Most of the really dark scenes looked pretty good, but those with a higher average brightness had very washed-out blacks, IMO. Maybe I'm complaining about contrast....
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#15 of 61 OFFLINE   David Galindo

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Posted December 21 2004 - 03:42 PM

Excellent movie, EXCELLENT DTS mix...what more can you ask for? Thanks for the review!

#16 of 61 OFFLINE   Tony-B



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Posted December 21 2004 - 05:10 PM

Collateral was an excellent movie, but the ending wasn't very good, at all.
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#17 of 61 OFFLINE   LaMarcus



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Posted December 21 2004 - 11:56 PM

I liked the ending, I just think there should have been MORE of the ending they had. Like
did the cop that believed him live or die? I hoped he might have had a vest on and lived. I would have liked to have seen what Jada and he said to the cops. Also I would have liked to have seen her show her gratitude to him for saving her, or even him getting his limo business of the ground.
There was just a lot of questions left after the final curtain came down.

#18 of 61 OFFLINE   JustinCleveland



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Posted December 22 2004 - 12:28 AM

LaMarcus, I'm with you, I thought the movie was good, but not great. But I'm glad they left the ending open, I hate when everything is wrapped up with a neat little bow.

#19 of 61 OFFLINE   David Galindo

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Posted December 22 2004 - 01:35 AM

Agreed. The movie ended on the perfect note for me.

#20 of 61 OFFLINE   Felix Martinez

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Posted December 22 2004 - 02:27 AM

Here's an interesting article on the mixed-media film and digital cinematography of Collateral, FYI...



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