Thursday, 15 July 2010

Collateral: the most existential film ever made

I watched Collateral again the other day for about the twentieth time. I keep finding new things in it. I believe it is the most existential film ever made. And I'm not talking about the dark atmosphere, of which you can find something similar in countless other films. I mean the subtext. There's a bit of philosophy in the dialogue between Cruise and Foxx, but the message is nearly all in the subtext.

The way Vincent (Tom Cruise) kills the jazzman. He was considering letting him off, but he is disgusted when he hears that the jazzman didn't take his music seriously after Miles Davis encouraged him. So he doesn't deserve to live. Vincent is fierce in his head like Davis was, and he only respects that sort of person. His existential commitment to his contract killing career justifies his existence. He knows he is the best in the world at it. God may or may not exist, but Vincent is the best contract killer there is. That means something. To him, at least.

Max (Jamie Foxx) is going nowhere in life. He works as a cab driver and has a safe, predictable existence. He dreams of owning his own limousine service. A modest dream, perhaps, but Max has potential. Unfortunately, all he does is dream. Then Vincent enters his life. Vincent forces Max to take risks. He forces him into criminal activities, to be rude to his boss, to go into a club and deal with a top gangster; and - at the end of the film - he even forces Max to kill him. This extreme act of killing Vincent raises Max's life to another level. His life is about to be changed beyond all recognition. You can tell that he is going to have a relationship with the lawyer he saved, he's going to be famous in the media, and - because he's had his eyes opened and his consciousness expanded by Vincent - he is going to start the limousine firm he has been dreaming of for so long. He is going to take risks without the need of a catalyst such as Vincent.

There is also a coyote in the film, on the streets of LA, which has the same hair colour as Vincent. Vincent is a wild animal, acting beyond or outside normal human values and morals in a universe where God (if He exists) has not revealed Himself. Well, not to Vincent, at any rate.

Of course, this has nothing to do with money. I had to write this post. I use the message of Collateral as a crutch for my will, as I propel myself onwards and upwards. You, dear reader, can use it as well, with whatever you happen to be involved in.