Sunday, March 05, 2006

Feeling like collateral?

"They project onto you their flaws, what they don't like about themselves. I had a father like that," says Vincent.

It's a moment of commonality between Vincent (Tom Cruise) and Max (Jamie Foxx) in Collateral. It's one of my favorite movies. I love thrillers. I love Michael Mann thrillers (he of Miami Vice, Heat, The Insider and Ali). But most of all I love movies about people, and watching it again on TV last night reminded me of that.

Collateral works. It is, in my opinion, Tom Cruise's best performance - and Jamie Foxx plays a perfect foil. The performances are framed by the usual brilliant soundtrack and cinemaphotography of a Michael Mann movie.

There is not much in common between Vincent and Max. Vincent is a contract killer. Max is a taxi driver. But after an impromtu visit to Max's mother in hospital we catch a glimpse through the veils of perhaps shared difficulties in childhood. The difference is that Vincent becomes disillusioned and cold - he cuts himself off from the world - "Millions of galaxies of hundreds of millions of stars, in a speck on one in a blink. That's us, lost in space."

Max, on the other hand, survives through dreaming of starting a limo company. He's holding down a temporary job - of twelve years - while he gets everything in place.

Their respective faults are clear to one another. Their lack of self-awareness is supported by the self-justification present in all of us. Vincent remarks with biting clarity what Max buries deep down, "One night you'll wake up and you'll discover it never happened. It's all turned around on you and it never will. Suddenly you are old, didn't happened and it never will, 'cause you were never going to do it anyway."

Vincent remarks that he hates LA - it's so spread out and everyone is so disconnected from one another. Did you know that a guy died on the MTA and no one noticed that he was dead for 6 hours? His observation is rich with the irony of his own isolation and inability to really connect with anyone. The same irony is apparent in his charisma. What he really believes is: "There's no good reason, there's no bad reason to live or to die."

Max asks of Vincent, "Man, if someone had a gun to your head and said: 'You gotta tell me what's goin' on with that person across the street, there, what they think, who they are, how they feel, or I will kill you'... they'd have to kill you...wouldn't they...? 'Cause you don't have a clue about anyone. ...I don't think you, you have a clue, period. Did anyone 'do' for you in your life? Ever? When you draw breath in the morning? Open your eyes in the a.m.? You anticipate anything? Want anything? Expect anything? I don't think so... 'Cause you are low, my brother, way low... and some standard parts that are supposed to be there?... with you, aren't. So what happened to you, man? What happened to you?" Again the irony is rich in the way Max's own delusions have cut him off.

For one moment, an extraordinary event seems to offer some perspective as two coyotes cross in front of the taxi in the middle of LA suburbia. There is a flicker of introspection in their eyes as they take in the moment.

Isn't that just the way? Don't we all hope perspective might dawn, and aren't we disappointed when something extraordinary happens and it doesn't?

But I am not a movie critic and this is not a movie review site.

I once fell in love with a guy like Vincent. He was the guy who was like me, just better. Somehow, somewhere, things in his youth had made him build a wall between him and the world. His wall was a charisma that created an easy relationship and an anger that shut out a deeper connection.

Others might create a wall through dreaming impossible dreams.

One thing is for sure - we battle to see our own flawed logic. Man have I been doing a lot of introspection.

PS: Michael Mann is directing a movie version of Miami Vice with Jamie Fox (good) and Colin Farrel (pity) slated for US release in July of this year. See the teaser trailer here.

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