Here’s a review of Collateral (2004) released to 4k Ultra HD Blu-ray on December 8th, 2020. The film was remastered under the supervision of the director Michael Mann for Ultra HD presentation, which provides 2160p resolution and High Dynamic Range color. The 2-disc combo edition from Paramount includes a 1080p Blu-ray disc and a code to redeem a Digital Copy.
Michael Mann’s Collateral (2004) can be described as a neo-noir thriller that is almost presented in real-time in the way the story takes place during one night through the eyes of a Los Angeles cab driver. The movie stars Jamie Foxx as the aspirational Max who picks up a passenger named Vincent (Tom Cruise) that turns out to be an assassin with a hit list for the evening. Foxx was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Performance by a Supporting Actor, along with Jim Miller and Paul Rubell who were nominated Best Editing.
Jada Pinkett Smith, Peter Berg, Mark Ruffalo, and Javier Bardem also star in Collateral, but the main story is focused on Max and his seemingly psychological (and sometimes physical) imprisonment by Vincent. At times you wonder why Max doesn’t just run away from Vincent, but there is something that keeps driving him back (no pun intended) to the hitman he is transporting around the city. Over time, it becomes clear Max has a deeper reason for his prolonged suffering under Vincent’s spell. Through all the pain, shock, and disbelief he experiences we eventually learn why he was fated to meet the assassin.
If you like grain, Collateral on UHD BD has got plenty of it. It’s almost like part of the personality of the film — hard to ignore but easy to live with. The cinematographers Dion Beebe and Paul Cameron must have been using some extra high ISO settings to capture all the low-light imagery at night, as only the first five minutes of the film are shot in daylight. But the more ISO sensitivity is increased the more noise becomes apparent in the image.
The film was shot on an early digital cinema camera called the Thomson Viper FilmStream which maxed out at 1080p resolution (so, this 4k video is obviously upscaled). Collateral was, in fact, the first feature film to be shot with the Viper which was also used for Miami Vice (the movie) and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Some scenes like the nightclub scene were apparently shot in 35mm, but it’s hard to tell the difference after all the footage is merged into the 2k digital intermediate.
Collateral is enhanced with both HDR10 and Dolby Vision, allowing either High Dynamic Range spec to be utilized depending on the device (although most TVs will convert the HDR to whatever is supported). There is a definite advantage when HDR is activated. It’s a dark movie but the increase in color bit depth helps bring out details that were hard to see on Blu-ray or Digital HD. Take for example the images of the freeways and downtown Los Angeles when Max is driving Jada Pinkett Smith’s character Annie. The back of the cab is much more visible, the buildings have more definition, and the road is brighter even though it was only illuminated by headlights.
Overall the color grading is not bad, but there is something about the lighting that may throw you. For example there are scenes where Vincent seems to glow like a Jedi Force ghost, only enhanced by his grey hair and grey suit. But this “look” is also quite evident in Blu-ray and Digital HD presentations of Collateral. Mann was clearly interested in the lighting and color separation of the protagonist Vincent against the Los Angeles night.
Mann, who became well known for earlier films like The Last of the Mohicans (1992) and Heat (1995) makes another signature movie in Collateral. It’s a good film and Foxx does a tremendous job as Max, but Cruise just isn’t convincing enough as a cold-hearted assassin who would go so far as to threaten a man’s mother. Still though, the cinematography, pace of the film, and action sequencess may at times remind you of Heat – and that certainly isn’t a bad thing.
The soundtrack is provided in 24-bit DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, which isn’t an upgrade from previous Blu-ray editions but nevertheless a good audio experience. The nightclub scene has some particularly good mixing with a deep electronic beat that’s eventually broken up by the sounds of gunfire. The dialogue in the scene is nicely mixed with the background music so that you can clearly hear what they are saying without straining. The upcoming car crash is an incredibly impactful moment that sounds about as real as it can get. And, the scene at Annie’s office sounded great in surround sound, with subtle effects in the quiet moments that add to the anxiety of the film.
Audio is offered in English or dubbed Deutsch and Français with subtitles in English, English SDH, Deutsch and Français.
The extras on the 4k Blu-ray Disc include audio commentary from Michael Mann and the theatrical trailer. Not much to speak of but the Blu-ray disc includes City of Night: The Making of Collateral, Special Delivery,Shooting on Location: Annie’s Office, Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx Rehearse, Visual FX: MTA Train, and a deleted scene with commentary. There is also a Digital Copy that can be redeemed through ParamountMovies.com (via FandangoNow, iTunes, or Vudu).