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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
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What's the story?
In COLLATERAL, Max (Jamie Foxx) is a cab driver who begins his shift by wiping off the dashboard and putting his favorite picture on the visor. He takes his job seriously. Vince (Tom Cruise) offers Max $600 to stay with him all night, through five stops. Max turns him down at first; it's against the rules. But then he says yes. He takes the fare to his first stop. Vince goes inside while Max waits for him. And then a dead body hits the roof of his cab. Vince is a hit man, and the five stops are people he has been hired to kill. Can Max save any of them? Can he save himself?
Is it any good?
As cool as a jazz riff from a tenor sax, this stylish and powerful thriller has it all. It boasts consistently absorbing characters, twisty dialogue and an even twistier story, and action that engages the heart as it thumps a little faster. Director Mann uses a silvery blue palette and spare, reflective, glass-filled settings to keep the mood as cool as moonlight. Both Jada Pinkett Smith and Mark Ruffalo are endlessly watchable, giving their characters subtlety and context to make us care far out of proportion to their time onscreen.
Foxx is turning into a performer of great presence and depth and he makes a convincing leading man. Cruise is a little out of his range but that works oddly well for Vince, giving him a little frisson of uncertainty underneath the Terminator-like singlemindedness of the character. And Cruise has moments of brilliance. He even runs in character, completely focused but so in each moment that he does not try to pace himself. He puts everything he has into each step forward.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Vince's ability to compartmentalize. He says he did not kill one of the victims, "the bullet and the fall killed him." Notice the way that Vince is always to the left of Max except in one scene. Which scene is that and why? What were Max's options? What is the meaning of the title? Who or what serves as collateral?
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