Prayer Focus
Movie Review


MPAA Rating: R for violence and language

Reviewed by: Evan D. Baltz

Add to your list?
View your list
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Crime Thriller Drama
2 hr.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
August 6, 2004 (wide)
Featuring: Tom Cruise, Jamie Foxx, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Mark Ruffalo, Peter Berg
Director: Michael Mann
Distributor: Dreamworks SKG
Copyright, Dreamworks SKG
Copyright, Dreamworks SKG
Copyright, Dreamworks SKG
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Dreamworks SKG

How should we care about others, and why?

the value of humanity

When people remain disassociated from each other, they tend to care less about each other than they should.

Faith without deeds is useless.


murder in the Bible


“It started like any other night.”

Do you believe in “cosmic coincidences”? Hold that thought for a minute. We’ll get back to that question.

Tom Cruise (“Minority Report”) stars in yet another blockbuster movie, but this time as the bad guy. Usually the mega-superstar appears as the hero or good guy in his movies. Only occasionally has he summoned the dark side persona. Audiences probably prefer their stars to be heroes, but in this film, Cruise proves he is quite adept at pulling off cold and calculating.

Cruise stars as Vincent, the assassin for hire. His unwilling accomplice is a meticulous but under achieving taxi driver (Max), played by Jamie Foxx (former comedic star of television shows “In Living Color” and “The Jamie Foxx Show”). Foxx begins his evening cab shift like any other night. He happens to pick up prosecuting attorney Annie (Jada Pinkett Smith—“Matrix Revolutions”). The two hit it off during a discussion over fastest cab routes in LA. Annie leaves her business card with Max as she exits the cab, just in case he ever needs “legal advice.”

It turns out he needs a lot more than that. Max’s next fair turns out to be Vincent, who offers Max $600 to drive him around for the night while Vincent “makes a few stops.” Max soon learns that Vincent is doing more than glad-handing some old friends.

Cruise plays Vincent with cold-hearted glee. He is smooth and controlled, and very believable as the character. Foxx is also strong in this serious role. Cruise’s presence rarely over-shadows Foxx’s character, which gives the movie balance.

We feel as if events are happening almost in real-time as the two travel from stop to stop. Each one brings a new set of twists and turns. Vincent engages Max in discussions as they drive as each character attempts to figure out the other. Vincent’s take on life is that it doesn’t really matter. If one person dies, who cares? Thousands of people die in far off places every day and no one bats an eyelash, so why should his job bother people any more than that. Especially in LA. He recounts a story about a guy dying on a train, and no one noticing for days. Vincent is indifferent about life. This is just a job. What does any of it matter? We are just a speck, lost in space.

So is it a cosmic coincidence that brought Vincent to Max’s cab? Is there such a thing? In movies there sure is. In real life? No such thing. In fact, no such concept is alluded to in all of Scripture. Everything is under the control of a totally Sovereign God. Even the comings and goings of sparrows are under the control and supervision of God. There are no coincidences in God’s plan. It may seem that way from man’s perspective. But not from God’s.

In movies, however, especially in this one, it appears there are cosmic coincidences.

There isn’t unfortunately a coincidental use of harsh language. There are 50 plus instances of 4-letter type words, and the Lord’s name is taken in vain about a half-dozen times. Generally, however, these utterances were not out of context for the characters and situations. These are bad guys after all. There is a good deal of violence, including graphic up-close assassinations. There is no nudity or sexual content in the movie.

Cruise is Cruise. It was nothing less than what you would expect from him. Solid, intense, sharp-witted. We are even treated to the requisite scene of Tom Cruise running at full speed, which seems to be as ubiquitous in Cruise movies as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “I’ll be back” line.

The movie is more about the Foxx character, however. He is the “everyman” reluctant hero, and his character feels well developed. But who will win in the end? Max, Vincent, LAPD, the FBI, or the drug lords? This is a good, exciting mystery that will hold your attention. It does reflect our society’s apparent steady decline towards apathy and indifference for our fellow man and life itself. Be thankful your life is in the hands of a caring and Sovereign Lord, and not left to the fates of cosmic coincidences.

Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: None

Viewer Comments
Comments below:
Positive—“Collateral” thrives on character development and psychological themes, and there is an underlying message about the value of humanity. The diatribes exchanged between the sharp-witted killer Vincent and good-hearted average guy Max are especially entertaining. Despite being cynical and austere, careful viewers will begin to notice over the course of his dealings with Max that Vincent begins to show ever so subtle signs of concern for the unlucky taxi driver, and even a disdain for society’s low regard for human life.

I found myself questioning his motives several times throughout the film. Particularly notable is his complaint about a man who died on a subway without being noticed for days, a comment that has a very ironic twist towards the end.

Profundity aside, this is an action movie that manages to keep the plot thick—thriller buffs won’t be disappointed. An edge-of-your-seat intense movie. Violence is unsurprisingly gratuitous, with morgue visits and bullet wounds and bloody shirts and bodies thrown off of buildings and the whole nine yards.

Questionable language is definitely there, but is used almost exclusively by the bad guys and (unlike most movies of this genre) thankfully not in every other sentence. A good movie with a satisfying ending, if you can stomach the objectionable content this one probably won’t disappoint.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/4]
—Kat Walker, age 19
Positive—Good, simple movie that does not involve thinking. I enjoyed it a lot…
My Ratings: [Average/4½]
—Jon, age 18
Positive—…Michael Mann’s examination of how violence can degrade the soul, and how people have value results in one of the most intelligent action thrillers I have ever seen, and I have seen quite a few. What it basically comes down to is the argument of moral relativism. Tom Cruise’s character is the perfect moral relativist: he sees nothing wrong with killing a few people here and there, because after all, people die all the time. Foxx represents the idea that everyone has value and no death is ever justified.

If Foxx’s character was only made a Christian, you’d have the makings of a perfect morality tale. Yes, there is violence, and there is profanity, but that is exactly the point. “Collateral” is about showing how bankrupt and empty depravity is, instead of glorifying it like most action movies do.

I disagree with the reviewer about this movie being about coincidences, because it is not. It’s an examination of the nature of human life and value, and it does so very well. Intelligent, extraordinarily well-acted, and superbly directed, “Collateral” is one of the best movies I have seen all year.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/5]
—Jim Alderman, age 19
Positive—I think a lot of people have missed the point of the film. In his discussion with Mas, Vincent recounts how in Rawanda 10 000 people were killed in a single morning, but Max didn’t go join Amnesty, so why should Vincent’s job bother him in any way. I didn’t realize it until I left the theatre but the movie plays you. As Vincent goes from killing to killing the viewer is distraught but not overly upset, same with Max. But when the character played by Jada Smith is threatened, that’s when Max goes to extraneous lengths to save her, and we as the viewer feel for both of the with a greater intensity then for any of the other victims.

It proves Vincent’s point, as long as we are disassociated from each other the less care we have for each other, that’s why the man could go around and around on the subway before anyone found him, because the point of the movie is that we don’t care, and it makes it undeniably clear. So it leaves us with the question of how and why should we care?
My Ratings: [Average/5]
—John Vychytil, age 21
Positive—I was somewhat surprised at my interest in this movie after seeing it. I had gone into it with the prejudgment that it would be the usual plot of an action/murder movie. To my overall surprise and relief, I was proven wrong in many cases. First of all, the acting was superb. I watched the bonus features (on DVD) and after seeing the extent to which the actors, Cruise and Foxx, went through before filming made me appreciate the effort that they gave on screen.

The overall idea of the plot is simple enough, but with more than enough twists to make it a story you rarely get to see. Director Michael Mann does an incredible job of using LA’s night scenes to enhance the mood and attitude of each scene. On the down side, Cruise and Foxx use a lot of profanity, which in my view was totally unnecessary. The F-word is used heavily in certain moments, but it seemed as if once they got through using it, they forgot about using it and went on with the plot. Stupid huh?

The violence is mild, but the gunshots are as real as you can get without actually pulling out a 9mm and firing it. I would caution parents against letting even young teens watch this due to the intense nature of the gunshots and the profanity. Luckily, there is no nudity that I remember, or even sexual references. Overall, I give this performance an A… and a very decent plot.
My Ratings: [Average]
—Joseph, age 22
Neutral—In “Collateral”, Tom Cruise takes on a very opposite role from his usual Good-Guy persona to play a contract killer. During his night of “work”, he hires a cab driver (Jamie Foxx) to drive him around to his assignments. After finding out what Tom Cruise’s character is up to, Jamie Fox begins to try to find a way out. Then, he realizes that Cruise’s target is the beautiful lawyer (Jada Pinkett-Smith) who’d also been his last fare. Foxx’s character then begins to figure out how to save Pinkett’s life.

The movie contains much violence, and is not a movie for young kids. Cruise spends the entire movie going from assignment to assignment, and uses manipulative tactics to keep Foxx’s character from turning him in or escaping. A good, fast paced action movie; but not one to select for family night. As a Christian, you can possibly use the movie as a springboard to discuss murder, deception and lying. Truthfully, save your money, and wait for it to come out on DVD. Preview it as a rental and decide for yourself.
My Ratings: [Average/4]
—Dan Baucom
Comments from young people
Comments from young people
Positive—This movie was great.The language and the violence was not to bad compared to most R rated films.This movie had great acting due to Tom Cruise and a great story line. I recommend this movie.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/5]
—William, age 13
Positive—This is the best movie I have ever seen. This is the only movie I have ever seen where Tom Cruise is the bad guy. The film making quality was excellent. I loved the plot, it was gripping and not to hard to follow. Although there is some language, and the movie is pretty violent, I highly recommend it.
My Ratings: [Average/5]
—Taylor Zook, age 14
Positive—Me and a few friends decided to see this movie although it was rated R. Which is all for (besides a little blood) the extensive language. The movie itself was incredibly well played. The suspensefulness of what will happen next keeps you at the end of your seat. The movie’s end itself is somewhat a bit of a shocker, but leaves you with a good feeling. Bypassing the language, this movie was excellent.
My Ratings: [Average/4½]
—Matt, age 14
Positive—…nothing objectionable, let me preface this by saying that I am referring to the film’s morality, not its rating. Yes, there was a lot of violence and language, but despite that it was a moral (and I thought Christian) movie. I felt like the moral of the story was basically like it says in James, “Faith without deeds is useless.” Max (played wonderfully by Jamie Foxx) has lots of wonderful plans in his head about how he’s going to live his life, what he’s going to do with his time and resources, but as the villain, Vincent, points out to him, he has never acted upon any of that. And it is at that point that Max (warning: spoilers ahead) finally takes action against the murdering Vincent. I would highly recommend this film if you are willing to look past the violence and language.
My Ratings: [Good/5]
—Logan M Giannini, age 16
Movie Critics
…at last, the nice guy wins… one of the best made movies of the summer, but it demands extreme caution…
—Dr. Ted Baehr, Movieguide
…don’t expect to come away feeling anything but depressed…
—Annabelle Robertson, Crosswalk
…one of Cruise’s best performances and his smartest career move since Magnolia
—Steve Murray, Atlanta Journal-Constitution
…script acknowledges Vincent’s evil, but offers only a weak counter to it… no happy, moral middle to such a hopeless worldview… graphic violence… dark tale.
—Christopher Lyon, Plugged In
…a super time at the movies, a combination of sensual and acting pleasures…
—Mike Clark, USA Today