Collateral Plot Analysis
Taxi driver Max (Jamie Foxx) has his world turned upside down when he learns that his passenger, Vincent (Tom Cruise), is a brutal killer. Held hostage at gunpoint, Max leads Vincent from one target to another – before deciding to risk his own life to save the life of Vincent’s latest target.
How does Max’s night shift start?
Before Vincent, Max’s last fare was federal prosecutor Annie Farrell (Jada Pinkett Smith) – she was preparing for a very important case.
Vincent jumps in next and offers Max $600 to take him several places. Reluctant at first, Max accepts the offer. And it’s not long before Max begins to smell a rat.
How does Vincent’s night shift begin?
After driving Vincent to the first stop, Max waits outside the building for Vincent to return. Before long, a body falls on top of the taxi – partially shattering the windshield.
Later, Vincent reveals himself as a murderer – to kill five people in one night in Los Angeles. He forces Max to hide the body of his first victim in the trunk of his car. Furious, Max begs Vincent to let him go – but Vincent has appointed Max as his designated driver for the duration of his tenure. Plus, Vincent makes it clear that he won’t hesitate to shoot her if she wants to lose him or betray him.
Who is Vincent after next?
After making the first kill, Vincent has four more left on his list to hunt. At the second stop, he straps Max to the steering wheel and kills his second target. Instead of helping him, the men beat him and take Vincent’s briefcase. Vincent arrives on the scene and without wasting a moment shoots both men dead.
Vincent then orders Max to go to a jazz club, where he meets Daniel, the owner of the club – who he reveals is his next target. Despite Max’s desire to keep Daniel alive, Vincent unexpectedly headbutts Daniel after some play.
Vincent and Max go to the hospital to see Max’s sick mother. The old lady warms to Vincent and tells him that she is very proud of her son. Disturbed to see his mother with a man with serious homicidal tendencies, Max storms out and runs away with Vincent’s briefcase.
Vincent chases him to an overpass, where Max destroys the briefcase in an instant and throws it onto the highway. Information about the last two targets with the portfolio is also lost.
An angry Vincent orders Max to pose as him in order to get information on the last two targets from drug lord Felix Reyes-Torrena. Max does as he is told.
Vincent then goes to a nightclub with Max to down his fourth. However, discovering that the previous three murders are connected, LAPD undercover detective Ray Fanning (Mark Ruffalo) is also there – chasing the killer.
Despite the presence of the cops, Vincent shoots the man he’s after with a bunch of bodyguards. After putting an end to the ruckus at the nightclub, Vincent forces Max to get back in the car and continue driving. Now all he cares about in LA is a fifth goal.
What happens in the last part of Vincent’s task?
After the incident at the nightclub, Vincent and Max are on the road again, but now the situation is much more tense. The unlikely duo get into a verbal altercation, and a furious Max accidentally crashes the car. Vincent escapes before the police arrive and tries to arrest Max after finding a dead body in the trunk.
Max, who has been cooperating with the police until now, sees on Vincent’s open laptop that his latest target is the lady who ordered the taxi before Vincent. Knowing that she is a wonderful working lady, Max is determined to save her life regardless of the consequences. He outruns the arresting cop and makes his way to Annie’s building.
Vincent is in Annie’s building – preparing to close the Los Angeles branch. However, before she can do any harm to Annie, Max interrupts her and runs with Anna to a nearby subway station where they board a train. Vincent gets on the same train – quite stylishly. Unable to locate the couple on the train, Vincent searches for them from compartment to compartment before being shot by Max.
What does the ending really mean?
But the real meaning is hidden between the words Vincent and Max exchange while on the road. Vincent is a brave man – he has tunnel vision for his work. On the other hand, Max is a laid-back person who doesn’t want to bother anyone, even if they don’t treat him well.
The relationship between the two is somewhat difficult to understand. Seeing Max being treated like a piece of dirt by his boss, he teaches him the proper way to deal with such people. Similarly, he asks Max to be nice to his mother and to stand up for him in times of trouble. Although he regularly threatened him, Vincent was never violent towards Max – not even when Max destroyed his briefcase.
At the end, Vincent shouts that he does anything to make ends meet. And when Max hits him, he has a very satisfied look – like he’s content with his fate, with his death. Or maybe he’s just happy to see Max apply the lessons he’s taught him in real life.