Max (Jamie Foxx), is a man with ambition. He toils his evenings driving a cab in Los Angeles while dreaming of opening his own limo company and making it big. Sadly Max is also a man who is hampered by indecision, as he is unable to take the final step to move towards his dream preferring for the comfort of always dreaming rather than achieving.

In the new Drama “Collateral”, Max is about to have his notion of life and the world turned upside down by a passenger named Vincent (Tom Cruise), who is a polar opposite of Max in every way. Vincent is a well-dressed business man who hires Max for the evening as he needs to make five stops in order to complete what he says are real estate deals. Although reluctant at first, the thought of $600.00 for a few hours work soon convinces Max to take the job and ferry Vincent around Los Angeles.

En route to the first stop, Vincent questions Max about why he is waiting to start his company when he could easily lease a Town car to get started and expand from there. The question unsettles the usually mild Max as what the stranger is saying makes a lot of sense but it also undermines the fact that Max is uncomfortable with taking the next step be it in his business ventures or in his social life such as calling an attractive attorney who was clearly interested in him.

While waiting for Vincent after the first stop, the sky literally falls upon Max’s word when a body crashes on his cab and Vincent forces Max at gunpoint to hide the body and continue driving him around. Vincent has one evening to complete his rounds and each stop will result in another death despite Max’s best efforts to intervene. No matter what Max attempts to get out of the situation or to again help, Vincent is always one step ahead of him and able to manipulate Max.

It does not take long for the tense situation to escalate as the result of Vincent’s work has not gone unnoticed by the police largely due to Max’s involvement, and this only causes Vincent to become even more focused and even more of a danger to Max as he needs to complete his tasks before morning and stay ahead of the police and other potential dangers.

“Collateral” is a gripping and intense thriller that contains some of the best work Cruise has done in his career as he portrays Vincent as a complex character who does not find fault with what he does and has no qualms about taking life, yet is amazed by Max and his unrealized dreams and moved by a performance at a local Jazz club.

One could almost call Vincent a Gentleman bandit were it not for the vast amounts of death and destruction he leaves in his wake. He is clearly an intelligent person who makes no apologies for what he does as he sees it as an insignificant blip in the vast universe.

Foxx meanwhile plays off character as he plays a very quite and withdrawn individual that has to be forced out of his shell. After years of playing brash and outrageous characters it was refreshing to see this talented actor turn in an emotional yet restrained performance that shows that he is a talent on the rise and if properly used, can be a gigantic star as not only is he capable of humor and drama, he can easily move to action when it is warranted and looks comfy and competent doing so.

The film also has some impressive visuals as Director Michael Mann gives viewers some amazing shots of the L.A. skyline at night, and the way he shoots the streets and back alleys with a neon glow gives the film a very natural look. On more than one occasion, I go a sense of déjà vu as the natural manner in which the surrounding city and citizens behave and look like a day in the life of rather than a movie set.

The film does drag a bit roughly ¾ in and some may find the ending a bit pat, but that being said, “Collateral” is a solid action drama and one of the best films of the year.

4.5 stars out of 5