Collateral is another film I’ve watched by accident. This happens; I want to watch a film, I find there’s nothing available to download rent, so I pick something I’ve at least heard of, and give it a go. This time around, it turned out to be a good choice.

The publicity for this film is misleading. You may have seen the trailers, featuring Tom Cruise with grey hair. Yes, Tom Cruise with grey hair — not since Roger Moore raised his left eyebrow instead of his right have we seen such a radical departure from type. You may have heard that Jamie Foxx has been nominated for a ‘Best Supporting Actor’ Golden Globe. But it’s not a Tom Cruise film. So, yes, he stars in the film, but this film is really all about Jamie Foxx’s character, Max.

Before I continue, though, let’s have a go at Tom Cruise. Come on — he’s rubbish, isn’t he? He plays every part the same, brings nothing special to any role he plays, is not even particularly entertaining to watch in the way that, say, Al Pacino is. He has about five facial expressions, three of them ‘grinning’. Think of the films he’s been in, and be honest — when was the last time you didn’t realise you were watching Tom Cruise? Surely that’s a fairly important part of being an actor; the ability to act?. Nowhere have I seen this problem more clearly defined than in Collateral, because alongside Jamie Foxx, he is put to shame.

Now, let’s enthuse a bit about Jamie Foxx. Come on — he’s brilliant, isn’t he? You don’t watch Collateral thinking “I’m watching Jamie Foxx”, just like you won’t be watching the forthcoming Ray Charles biopic Ray and thinking “I’m watching Jamie Foxx” — you’ll be thinking you’re watching Ray Charles (check out the trailers if you don’t believe me — he’s uncanny). He plays the part of Max flawlessly, a dishevelled, likable and honest taxi driver who finds himself forced to drive Tom Cruise (Vincent) around the city for some murder-related hi-jinks. He’s believable, where Tom Cruise is just, you know…Tom Cruise. Same old, same old. But with grey hair! Crazy!

Ed Norton was offered the role of Vincent.

Collateral is extremely slow-paced. If you miss the pointless opening scene with Cruise at an airport (presumably put in there so that cinema-goers were sure that they were watching the right film), you’ll be faced by an extended scene (about 20 minutes or so) featuring Max driving a fare to her hotel, and talking. Just talking. Nothing happens, and a good proportion of the film is like this — Max driving, and talking to whoever happens to be in his taxi at the time — people in this film actually have conversations. Some people might find this boring, but the direction and acting (from those who can) is compelling, and I would have been content if the entire film had been like this. The length of the conversations makes the film feel as if it’s entirely played out in real time. There’s rarely a moment where the characters set out for one location and arrive in the very next scene — they’re driving there, and we’re along for the ride.

Through the conversations he has, Max changes. Despite the circumstances, what Vincent says to him does have a very noticeable effect (it’s possible that the reverse is also true, but with Cruise, who can tell?) and by the end of the film, Vincent has put Max through so much that he’s completely awakened by the experience. My only real criticism of the film is that the ending sequence opens things up too much; we’re taken away from the claustrophobic taxi setting and into a fairly weak chase scene instead, but at least the tension that’s built up over the last two hours remains in place right up until the credits roll. Oh, and there’s a scene involving a shoot-out in a nightclub that’s all a bit daft, but, you know; action sells.

Colin Farrell was offered the role of Vincent.

So, I was surprised. What I thought was going to be another tedious example of why Tom Cruise should not be allowed turned out to be a thoughtful and well-played thriller. It’s worth watching, and I even plan to get the DVD so I can listen to Michael Mann’s Director’s Commentary which I’ve heard is quite in-depth. And I never plan to get the DVD.