For a film with two credited cinematographers, Collateral is remarkably of a visual piece. Three weeks into filming this L.A. noir, director Michael Mann and DP Paul Cameron experienced “creative differences,” and Cameron was replaced by Dion Beebe. But Mann’s vision of nighttime L.A. as a location of hellish beauty, seen predominantly through the windows of a taxi, prevails over any kinks in the production. The movie is a fairly standard thriller in which cabbie Jamie Foxx takes on a fare (a salt-and-pepper bewigged Tom Cruise) who turns out to be a contract killer. The acting is good, some of the dialogue is sharp, and the movie is consistently entertaining, but it steadily marches towards its inevitable concluding face-off, with the narrative surprises arriving right on schedule. Yet visually, Collateral transcends its generic roots. Part of its distinction may lie in the employment on much of the film of HD cameras to pull as much natural light out of the setting as possible. The HD footage is seamlessly blended with traditionally filmed sequences, just as Cameron and Beebe’s work melds into a beautiful whole. Production designer David Wasco does a great job choosing and dressing locations to match the movie’s hard-edged, desolate style, and Jeffrey Kurland designs an exquisitely tailored suit for the natty Cruise character to wear as he plies his profession.
We Don't Live Here Anymore: Warner Independent Pictures We Don’t Live Here Anymore, John Curran’s domestic drama of betrayal and self-loathing, boasts a sensibility that may be familiar to anyone who’s seen In the Bedroom. Both films are based on stories by Andre Dubus, and are characterized by a sort of New England reserve (though the author was from Louisiana) that can mask the scale of the sins perpetrated by the educated, middle-class characters. What We Don’t Live Here Anymore lacks is the hook of murder and revenge that propelled the earlier film to such success. Instead, we get three superlative actors (plus Peter Krause) acting out a more mundane round of casually cruel bed-hopping. College teacher Mark Ruffalo is married to emotionally erratic Laura Dern, but is having an affair with Naomi Watts, who is married to Ruffalo’s caddish colleague Krause. Somber to a fault, the film doesn’t provide much in the way of rooting interest in these people; you almost wish one of them would commit murder, just to get some blood flowing across the carefully arranged surfaces. DP Maryse Alberti does a good job providing dimension and contrast in the movie’s interiors, which are designed by Tony Devenyi, but everyone’s dragged down by the overcast Vancouver exteriors, which have become depressingly familiar from production after runaway production. It’s great that the dollar’s so strong in Canada, but it would be even better if the sun came out once in a while.--John Calhoun