Top director Michael Mann and his imaginative eye for detail and riveting techniques highlights a different view of Los Angeles. "Collateral" is featured mainly at night displaying soft lights that spill out from their street lamps, blues that combine with whites and intermingle with greens. His vast experience and know how, having directed films such as "Last Of The Mohicans", "Heat", and "Ali", Michael Mann delivers a brilliantly created film, which compels the audience to not just observe and pay attention, but to be a part of the film, and to truly become involved with the characters which are brought to life on screen.
The story is simple and opens with Max (Jamie Foxx) and is a hard-working cabbie in L.A. with a personal fantasy of starting up a limousine business called "Island Limos". The script employs subtle touches to characterise the pensive Max, by keeping his cab meticulously clean; he keeps a postcard of an Island Paradise above the cab's sun-visor so that he can "go into meditation" when dealing with traffic or obnoxious customers. Progressing with the film's escalating action, Max picks up a beautiful and gorgeous attorney (Jada Pinkett-Smith) and proves his courtesy by convincing her to let him follow a time and money-saving shortcut, and earning him an unexpected proposition from a female, which even the colourful Max would consider out of his league.
Shortly after this, Max's destiny takes a perilous twist when he picks up Vincent (Tom Cruise), a somewhat pretentious and brusque character who offers Max six hundred dollars to transport him to five different addresses over the course of the evening to conduct business "closures" before dropping him off at LAX airport in the early hours of the morning. Max is both reluctant and apprehensive, but Vincent refuses to take "no" for an answer, and so Max reluctantly agrees to take the fare. Not long after the fare is underway Max deduces from the conversation, that Vincent is most likely to be a contract killer, visiting LA for one night to eliminate five witnesses against members of a Mexican and Colombian drug cartel currently facing federal charges for murder and narcotics trafficking. With his covert now exposed, Vincent produces a gun and forces Max to continue their extreme journey, and both of them carry on a philosophical battle of wits. With the arrogant, cynical Vincent challenging the honest and hesitant Max with a merciless view of human weakness as they journey towards an altercation with death.
In one scene a body drops out of a fourth story window and onto Max's cab, he becomes an unwilling associate on Vincent's murder spree. The storyline takes us to settings as diverse as a junkie's apartment, a high-rise mobster penthouse, a hospital room, and a smoky jazz club, all the while making the city of Los Angeles a central backdrop in the story.
There is an excellent soundtrack throughout the film, which emphasises the tension and nerve wrecking experience for the audience at key moments. Tom Cruise has had his critics in the past but in my humble opinion this is his best role to date and produces a sublime genuine performance. His character in "Collateral" is a menacing study in coldness and intimidation, and a credible portrayal of an utterly ruthless contract killer.