Tom Cruise Is Getting His Best Movie Added To Netflix

Tom Cruise is one of the great actions heroes of all time, but in this movie coming to Netflix, there's nothing heroic about him.

By Nathan Kamal | Published

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Tom Cruise is working harder than could possibly be expected of any 60-year-old actor. Cruise has been a leading man since before much of his fan base was born, and has managed to weather the many changes in Hollywood he must have seen over the decades. While he is currently at yet another career high with the incredible box office grosses and critical acclaim of Top Gun: Maverick, the best movie that Tom Cruise ever made is just now landing on Netflix. That movie is 2004’s Collateral, the Michael Mann neo-noir that pitted Cruise as a casually murderous assassin against Jamie Foxx’s moderately ambitious cab driver. While it may not be one of Tom Cruise’s best-known movies, it draws more out of him than almost any other movie and will hopefully be gaining a wider audience on Netflix when it arrives on September 1st.

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Collateral stars Tom Cruise as Vincent, a gray-haired, gray-suited hitman with an extreme sense of professionalism and an appreciation for jazz. The film opens with Cruise arriving at Los Angeles’ LAX airport, just one more anonymous man amidst thousands of busy business people trying to catch flights, make deals, and get on with their lives. Then he bumps into Jason Statham, they casually exchange bags with a few patently artificial lines of small talk, and things are off. While Jason Statham’s character does not show up again, the director of his then-exploding Transporter franchise has said that he considered that he is playing the same character of Frank Martin in Collateral, which is a nice little Easter Egg.

While Tom Cruise is slowly making his way into Los Angeles via Netflix for as-of-yet unknown but clearly grim reasons, we meet Jamie Foxx as cab driver Max Durocher. In Michael Mann’s extremely direct and immediate directorial style, we see that Jamie Foxx is obsessively tidy, has an encyclopedic knowledge of the Los Angeles grid, and can charm a lawyer played by Jada Pinkett-Smith if you catch him at the right moment. Then Tom Cruise leans into his cab window to see if he’s available. 

In one of the movie’s best touches, Jamie Foxx is so in a daze at his moment of connection with Jada Pinkett-Smith that he initially does not even notice Tom Cruise. Without even a glimmer of irritation, Tom Cruise begins to walk to the next cab, but that is not what happens in this particular movie coming to Netflix. Instead, Jamie Foxx apologetically waves him back, turning the whole movie into a “what if?” scenario. After clocking Jamie Foxx’s efficiency, Tom Cruise offers to pay him $700 to be his personal chauffeur for the night, making exactly five stops. Against his better judgment (and taxi regulations, which seem more important to him), Jamie Foxx accepts and his whole world blows up. 

Each of the five stops is a kill mission for Tom Cruise. Along the way, the mismatched pair get drawn into increasingly tense conversation and emerge as ideological opposites. Jamie Foxx is all about routine, predictability, and playing by the rules. On the other side of the glass divider in his cab, Tom Cruise is about improvisation, adaptation, and changing his plan as many times as is needed to achieve his goal. They also become oddly emotionally close, with Tom Cruise insisting they visit Foxx’s ailing mother in the hospital and Foxx, against all odds, managing to uncover some raw nerves under the glacially charming Vincent’s skin.

The key to Collateral is not simply that Tom Cruise is one of our great action stars (and that Michael Mann is one of the great action directors). It is that rather than playing Vincent as grim and silent (as Jason Statham might) or inhumanly unstoppable or unhinged, Tom Cruise portrays the killer as oddly affable and charming. It becomes clear that this is just one of the many tools in his arsenal, but linking Tom Cruise’s sometimes frightening charisma to a murderer who can clearly switch it on and off at will is inspired casting. It is also perhaps the only movie in which Tom Cruise plays an outright villain; even when Cruise plays a literal Nazi in other films, he still manages to somehow be a good guy. 

Jamie Foxx plays Max equally well, as uncontrolled when he is out of his element as Vincent is constantly adapting; initially, the role was intended for Adam Sandler, who bowed out due to scheduling issues. While Jamie Foxx plays it well, it is difficult not to imagine that pairing of Tom Cruise and Adam Sandler as something remarkable. 

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Collateral was a minor hit for Tom Cruise, grossing $220 million at the box office. Of course, a minor hit for Tom Cruise is a huge blockbuster for anyone else, with the movie becoming Michael Mann’s highest-grossing film ever. It was received with mixed reviews on release (in part due to Michael Mann’s use of then cutting-edge digital cameras), but has come to be considered one of the best movies of the early 2000s and one of the pinnacles of Tom Cruise’s career as an actor. As of September 1, you can decide for yourself when this Tom Cruise movie comes to Netflix.