Michael Mann... What else can we say? This director loves Los Angeles. A fact that was obvious enough when he directed Heat back in ’95, but Collateral is his true love-letter to the city and perhaps the best showcase of the urban-sprawl that modern film has to offer. It takes place over the course of a single-night in Los Angeles, covering much of the sprawl in that time and starts with a nice little cameo from Jason Statham (of GTAG Recommends: Crank fame) at Los Angeles Intl. Airport. The journey then stretches out across the city from Downtown to the beach, to the hills and then back to Downtown.
Jamie Foxx plays Max, possibly the most pleasant cab driver in the world, a relatively simple man with aspirations of opening a luxury car service. He is then forced at gunpoint to ferry a silver-haired assassin named Vincent, played by an alarmingly good Tom Cruise, around the sprawl of Los Angeles as he makes five different stops to kill five different people. Stuart Beattie, the screenwriter, wrote sharp and witty dialogue with a great back-and-forth between the two central characters. They're entirely different people, with different views, reactions and opinions to events that occur throughout the film.
I'm not going to make this next connection lightly: throughout the film, Vincent wears a white business shirt under a grey suit, making him look eerily similar to GTA V's Michael. Could be a coincidence, could be a homage. Make of it what you will:
As Martin Scorsese proved in 1976 with Taxi Driver, a cab is the perfect diving-board to show off the seedier elements to a city. In many ways, Collateral is a spiritual successor to Taxi Driver, using similar cinematographic techniques to showcase a city as you've never seen it before. Taxi Driver's Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) was a dissonant war-veteran detached from modern society, Tom Cruise's Vincent is peculiarly similar though never afraid to voice his opinions instead of just being another quiet spectre in a dark town.
Paul Cameron and Dion Beebe, the dual cinematographers, make the sinister-side of the city come to life using darkness, shadows and a HD camera to accentuate the light colors in turn making the night even darker. They turn L.A. into a scary place where anything can happen, including a nightclub shootout, a lack-lustre mugging, dead bodies falling onto cars from up high and an encounter with an eerily watchful coyote. We see L.A. from a perspective that was more-or-less never shown in San Andreas.
Fun fact: to help himself get into the role, Tom Cruise, one of the most recognisable actors in Hollywood, disguised himself as a local UPS-guy and made deliveries to businesses around Los Angeles with one goal – don’t get recognised. Why did he do this? It’s simple. He wanted to practice being a regular guy with a big secret. And he was successful too. He even sat with another man over a cup of coffee and held a conversation without the man being aware that he was talking to Tom frickin’ Cruise. Oh yeah, he also apparently learned how to draw, shoot and kill someone in under three-seconds but that's far less impressive in my opinion.
...I'm not sure if Jamie Foxx worked as a cab driver for his role.