Collateral DVD Review

It can be fun to see who might have been cast in a specific role. Instead of Tom Cruise for "Collateral," the producers looked at Adam Sandler (!), Russell Crowe, Colin Farrell, and Ed Norton. They ended up deciding it had to be someone older and went with Cruise, dying his hair a bright gray and pairing him with Jamie Foxx. The choices couldn't have been more perfect.

Cab driver Max (Foxx) picks up a man (Cruise) who makes an incredible offer, $600 if he'll drive him around to five specific locations over the course of the night. When he learns his new passenger is a hit man and those locations are to be his victims, Max tries to find a way out. When he can't escape, he makes a desperate bid for survival, and to save someone he knows.

One thing that director Michael Mann pulls off so well is setting the mood. He reminds us quite a bit in "Collateral" about it, showing a plentiful number of shots of just an illuminated city. Set in the late night/early morning, the streets are almost deserted, placing the two lead characters in an eerie, deserted metropolis all alone. It works to great effect.

The other thing quite prevalent is foreshadowing, sometimes to a point where you have to question if there are any surprises left. It's not very difficult to plan out the final sequence in your head as things move along. Still, some of the conversations will play through in your mind when it's all over and you wouldn't have caught everything. There's also another layer of the film for those who enjoy analyzing and over-analyzing their movies.

Enough has been written about Tom Cruise's acting ability over the years, it's rather pointless to discuss him here. He owns the role of a heartless, cold killer. His co-star is Jamie Foxx, who really steals the show, going through a fascinating change in just one night. Early moments set up whom his character is, and by the end of the film, he's someone else entirely. There's incredible depth to these people, bringing out their emotions and mindsets through simply flawless and natural conversation.

Everything sets up for a wild finale, one of the most exciting in years. It can seem to be a bit much, but by that part of the film, you're hooked. It's a perfect release from the built-up tension created by practically every scene in the movie. When you feel that tension, you know you've found a winner. (**** out of *****)

Shot almost entirely on digital film, "Collateral" really doesn't benefit from it. If the heavy grain was intentional, it would stay roughly the same for the entire movie. It doesn't. Scenes shot under heavy light look absolutely beautiful. Darkness brings background noise, compression issues (look at Max's cab), and a slight loss of detail. Some scenes do benefit from grain (which is why there's a chance some of it is intentional), but that doesn't make up for the rest of the film. (***)

Another DVD release in a string of recent discs, "Collateral" goes into overkill when it comes to audio. A DTS track is a wonderful thing. Unfortunately, this isn't a first choice for a movie so centered on dialogue. Sure, it spices up the action scenes a bit, providing an added burst to the gunfire and some slightly better separation, but is that really justified? The 5.1 track is about equal, just losing a little movement as cars pass and helicopter fly by. It's a nice presentation regardless, just without much chance to really show it off. (****)

This is a 2-disc set, and though the feature set looks long, it's really not. The Michael Mann commentary track, the only feature on disc 1, is a must hear. He goes deep into the film, explaining shots, hidden meanings, and telling viewers things they should look for. Great stuff.

Disc two only exists because of a 40-minute making-of documentary called "City of Night." If it weren't for this, the rest of the extras would be on disc one. It's interesting to watch as it flows along with the film sort of in the background per se, discussing how scenes came together and how characters shift. It does spend too much time on just film clips, which probably makes it seem longer than it is.

"Special Delivery" is an interesting piece, showing Tom Cruise going "undercover" as a Fed Ex delivery man, all while trying not to be noticed in preparation for his character. Why is this only one minute long? There's a measly one deleted scene with a required commentary. If it was left in the film, coming in at just two minutes, it would have neither detracted nor added to the movie. "On Location: Annie's Office" looks at a great action sequence and why and how it was done. Another brief feature, just a little over two minutes.

"Mann Rehearsing Cruise and Fox" are clips of the two actors screen testing intertwined with the final shots. It's an interesting inclusion as very little changed from that small room to the set. You spend a little over four minutes here. "Visual FX" looks at how green screen came into play for the final moments. You could never tell it was effect unless you watch this brief two-minute feature. The disc finishes with the basics, trailers, bios, and production notes. So, take away that documentary and all you have is eleven total minutes. Not really worth it. (***)

There is one major positive to this release. No pan & scan version exists. The film relies far too heavily on weighing its shots and composition, that it would be an utter disaster to see that ruined. You have to love how the back of the case lets you know that no butchered version exists too. Good job Paramount.

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