Jamie and Jada stalked by Tom Cruise as “Fate” in Collateral.

This summer marked eight years since Michael Mann’s Collateral introduced the world to both Jamie Foxx as a serious actor and Tom Cruise as a psychopath hitman with Ted Danson hair. After stomaching Jamie through poorly-executed attempts like Held Up and Bait and loving him in Any Given Sunday and Ali, I wasn’t sure of what to think about him placed in Mann’s cinematic palms. But I was presently surprised, especially in the first ten minutes of the film.
Somewhere between writer Stuart Beattie’s script and Mann’s visuals I found myself, then in my very late 20s, looking at a glimpse of what I might have been a few years into the future. Foxx plays Max (a single cabbie only working the job until he achieves his dream of owning his own limo service) who steers a career workaholic attorney named Annie (Smith) toward a late night at the office with only the comfort of climate control to hold her past dawn.
One has made her mark, but is missing something. The other has missed his mark but come to an almost Zen-like acceptance of his fate. Or so we think.
At that point in my life (2004), fresh off of a recent love betrayal, I romanticized the idea of solitude, believing that if I were truly alone then no one could ever hurt or disappoint me. Clouded by the masked anger and confusion that comprise most first decades of any artist, I, for the first time, stopped believing in the idea that I could ever be happy.
But it within those first ten minutes, as the dialog played and Groove Armada’s “Hands of Time” hummed underneath, I was greeted by the idea of possibility; the possibility that it is in the unexpected where we often find the answers we seek. Before Jada’s Annie climbs into that cab her only concern is the career case she’s prosecuting in the morning. And all Max wants is to get through his shift. But by being himself, playing into the magnetism permeating the plexiglass barrier between woman and man, passenger and driver, he’s rewarded by the universe with her seven digits and a newfound belief in the idea that he might actually be who he dreams of being, while rest of the world sleeps.
When you’re a boy, your thought process about women tends to center around three or four parts of the female anatomy (none of which tend to be the brain). You don’t see them as the person until the art of conversation begins. They go from object, to stranger, and the to something more, occasionally strutting down the Price is Right stairwell to that crazy little thing called love. And then the daunting nature of experience colors them whichever way your script dictates.
I got used to them talking but never listening, and to listening to the words underneath while skipping the fluff and styrofoam that sat on the sonic surface. Compatibility was ancient Greek in the middle of an English paper. My draft picks couldn’t even spell that mystery word, much less tell me what it actually meant.
Years later, as I came to enjoy the nuances of eye contact, the subtle crossing of one thigh over the other, the testing waters in the form of sampling the food on my plate while still neglecting hers, I started to bask in the joy of what my younger self had been missing: the her underneath, the she unimpeded by public facade, the gestures that said she wanted me to kiss her without prompt or notice that the hardening of a nipple had nothing to do with the temperature in the room.
I fell in love with skirts over jeans and the application of expensive war paint and organic fragrances tailor-made for the scent and color she came into the world with. Though the moments didn’t come with lights or camera, I saw the actions, soundtracked by Marvin, Sade, Cassandra or early Prince, and a collection of heels and curves that became the rainbow, pointing at her pot of gold, glistening underneath it all.
Once upon a time I believed that just because she offered it, then it had to be for me. Then God took to me to school, and I came out with six degrees in pain that Windexed what pleasure would look like when it finally came over the hill, her heeled boots clacking to the rhythm of Lovers Rock or Comfort Woman.
Before he finds Annie again, Max has to go through hell, facing death at the hands of a madman who has no respect for life [and no love for himself, a phantom wrapped in flesh, chasing pieces of silver in search of his lost soul. But when Max and Annie clasp hands, at the most crucial of moments, he knows the value of what’s chosen him, and is willing to empty his clip to keep her safe. That is where I am. That is what I do. Thanks Jamie, Jada, Stuart, and Michael Mann. Out.