For most of his long career in movies, Tom Cruise has played the all-American hero.
In films like Top Gun, Edge of Tomorrow and the Mission Impossible series, he is the quintessential hero, saving the world or getting the girl while displaying that million-dollar smile.
Cruise is recognised as being perhaps the greatest movie star of all time. But, as true fans know, he is also a fabulous actor. And - he can play a villain just as well, if not better, than a hero.
Even before Collateral, he dipped his toe in the villain waters with his performance in An Interview with a Vampire, while he is certainly not a heroic figure in Magnolia and Rain Man.
In Collateral, however, he has the opportunity to take on a role that shows him as a complete bastard. His character, assassin Vincent, may not be evil as such, but what could be more evil than murdering people for money?
What makes Cruise's performance as Vincent so good?
When we first see Vincent, it is a shock to the system as Cruise has abandoned his brown locks in favour of a grey buzz cut. The grey matches a crisp, grey suit similar to that worn by Robert De Niro in Heat, another movie directed by Collateral's Michael Mann.
What we see, is effortless confidence and extreme cool. We don't know his name yet or what his purpose is, but we know he means business.
As with literally any Cruise performance, charm oozes off the screen. And, he managed to pull this off despite the fact that he is a contract killer - an incredibly ruthless contract killer who would not hesitate to pull the trigger on anyone if the price was right.
Within Collateral, Vincent enters the car of cabbie Max, played by Jamie Foxx. Max is coerced into making five stops around Los Angeles as Vincent disposes of witnesses for his client.
As with any Mann action epic, the action sequences are tremendous. However, much like Heat's best scene comes via a conversation with De Niro and Al Pacino, most of Collateral's best moments are character-based, as Vincent and Max talk face-to-back in the cab.
As a viewer, you feel slightly guilty due to the fact that you actually like Vincent. His rants in the back of the cab about the state of the world may be morally askew, but there is an element of truth in some of what he says, which is why his eventual demise hurts more than with a normal villain.
As the movie goes on, we get to know Vincent better, and his ice-cold stare is no scarier than in a scene in a jazz club as he talks to one of his targets about Miles Davis. As the scene goes on, the witness realises what is happening, and Cruise goes from smiling politely to shooting the man in the head in a split second. The metamorphosis within a short period of time is mesmerising.
In terms of physicality, Cruise is a monster in this. Yes, we get his trademark sprint, but in one scene we see him quickly pull a gun on two goons and disarm them before murdering the pair in cold blood.
This scene is actually shown to LAPD detectives to display the proper way to draw a firearm. Because, of course, it is.
What have people said about Cruise in Collateral?
Michael Mann told Deadline of Cruise's performance:
“In Tom, I saw Lee Marvin. When Tom zeroes into a certain kind of person, if they are far enough away from him so that it’s a turn-on for a man of adventure, to be on some kind of a frontier with a character he can get to know but is very different from him, I could tell that within him it becomes a real adventure. To play Vincent, this solipsistic sociopath, who has all the f*cking answers and is so methodical and good at what he does, it felt like Tom was a perfect fit.
"He’s a perfectionist about knowing how to do the things he is supposed to do, which is why he does his own stunts in Mission: Impossible.
"The sociopathy of this guy was so unique, in his cosmic indifference and outrageous statements that still crack me up when I see some of the scenes with Jamie Foxx in the taxi cab. ‘You ever hear of Rwanda? So, what do you care about one fat guy who gets thrown out the window?’ Or answering Jamie’s accusation of ‘you killed him’ with, ‘I didn’t kill him. The bullets killed him and then he fell out the window.’
"The flat irony of Tom’s delivery on those lines is so perfect. It was a very different character for him, and I knew Tom would throw himself into whatever I needed to take him through to become that assassin.”
What is Cruise's best scene?
Here, Cruise shows he could actually be a member of the LAPD...
Did Cruise win any awards for his performance?
Foxx took most of the plaudits for the movie as he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
Cruise was nominated for an MTV Movie Award and Saturn Award.
Action / Thriller
2004 • 120 minutes