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‘Collateral’ opening title sequence analysis-mise en scene

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‘Collateral’ opening title sequence analysis-mise en scene. Locations. Location and how it is typical of the genre

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Location and how it is typical of the genre

  • Airport- this has international connotations; it suggests that Vincent has a well paid professional occupation. Airports are ideal for introducing characters in thrillers as they are crowded ordinary locations-typical of thrillers.
  • Taxi firm- this has connotations that suggest the employees are not rich, they are merely making a living. This is where the protagonist, an ordinary hero, is found-in an ordinary location, again conventional of thriller films.
  • Los Angeles- “Enjoy LA”-this is the city setting for the forthcoming events in the film; it is a crowded place with ordinary people making a living, consequently this makes it ideal for a conventional thriller film as it makes the audience feel that they are not completely safe anywhere.

How it contributes to the representation of the characters

  • Through the airport, this establishes the thought from the audience that Vincent is a professional businessman and therefore wealthy. The dark and dingy cab firm establishes that Max, the protagonist, is working class and struggling for income. These contrasts introduce the gap between rich and poor in one city, traditionally the poorer character is the protagonist. The film uses this as an extremity of what could happen should they meet.
lighting colour
Lighting/ Colour
  • Airport is bright- this suggests that Vincent acts as if he has nothing to hide and is well known by many people; the light also suggests dawn, therefore the beginning of a working day
  • Taxi firm is dark, dingy and dirty, whereas Max’s cab is clean- this suggests that Max is unknown
  • Black sunglasses- colour black has connotations of darkness, evil, death and danger, whilst the fact that the audience cannot see past them emphasises Vincent’s hidden identity, to the audience themselves and the characters around him
  • Yellow and red cab- yellow has the connotations of heroism and happiness; Max is the protagonist and saves the last target of Vincent, this colour is therefore an indicator of his personality. On the other hand, red has the connotations of danger, violence and death. This creates a sense of foreboding for when Vincent enters the car, making the car and its contents become a signal of danger and potential harm.
costume and appearance of characters
Costume and appearance of characters
  • Vincent wears a grey suit, has grey hair and wears sunglasses- the suit and briefcase connote that Vincent is a rich businessman (although is later revealed to be an assassin. Vincent’s grey appearance could also represent a predator, for example: a shark. The sunglasses also emphasise a hidden identity of the character.
  • Max wears everyday casual shaggy clothing as he is a cab driver- he does not need to look smart or professional to do his job responsibly or in order to give a good representation to his customers; his casual ordinary appearance also connotes that he is not very wealthy, contrasting with the antagonist (Vincent)


  • Sunglasses (Vincent)
  • Briefcases (Vincent)
  • Cab (Max)
  • Photo of island (Max)
  • Driver’s license (Max)

How are they typical of the genre?

  • The sunglasses emphasise Vincent’s hidden identity, which is a recurring aspect of thriller films
  • The hidden contents of the briefcase intrigues the audience as they are forced to ask questions about it and Vincent’s true occupation
  • The cab introduces Max’s ordinary lifestyle and job
  • The photo shows Max’s dream location to be
  • The license gives the impression that Max does not have a particularly ‘special’ lifestyle
props continued
Props continued

How do they add to the action?

  • The hidden identity due to the sunglasses suggests that Vincent is a villain; he is merely a face in the crowd, making him unrecognized, although he appears cautious.
  • The fact that Vincent takes the other briefcase also suggests that he is evil by creating mystery.
  • The cab itself suggests an everyday hero so the audience can relate to the narrative.
  • The photo introduces a dream Max wants to achieve, consequently making the audience think about its importance and relevance to the narrative.
  • Thrillers often take ordinary people and put them in extraordinary situations; the driving license therefore stresses a normality in the narrative, intriguing the audience.

What additional information do they give us about the characters?

  • The briefcase connotes that Vincent is an international, wealthy businessman.
  • The cab shows that Max is working class, trying to earn a decent living.
  • The photo shows that Max wants a break and that he is a dreamer, wanting to make the most of his life.
actor s performance character
Actor’s performance-character
  • Tom Cruise (Vincent) appears calm yet cautious. He is well spoken and polite. He has a good posture and seems purposeful concerning whatever he has to do.
  • Jamie Foxx (Max) appears slouched and bored. He does not talk with his colleagues, instead he retreats to his cab to clean the inside of it.

What does this tell us about the social status of the characters?

  • These appearances suggest that Vincent is middle or upper class and has been well brought up in a privileged way and/or area.
  • On the other hand, Max’s appearance suggests he is working class and did not have a privileged upbringing.

What does it tell us about the personality of the characters?

  • Max does not seem very social or confident, further emphasising a ‘lower’ class to Vincent. His general attitude is unenthusiasticand flippant but obsessive (in tidiness).
  • Vincent’s characteristics make him appear polite, calm and confident
conventional images in the film clues to forthcoming narrative
Conventional images in the film-clues to forthcoming narrative
  • Sunglasses- these convey the thriller genre because they are used to emphasise a hidden identity-typical in the genre. This could be to hide a person’s identity from the audience causing tension and encouraging asked about them, other characters or both.
  • Briefcases-the briefcase alone conveys the thriller genre because the audience are left asking questions about its contents. Although briefcases are normally associated with businessmen, the transfer creates apprehension in the audience. The unknown contents of the briefcase create tension as it further emphasises a hidden identity of Vincent.
  • Cab and Max’s driving license-these are typical of the thriller genre as they both stress a sense of normality through jobs and locations. Many people use cabs so the later events in the narrative cause anxiety and thrills in the audience, after having witnessed an extraordinary occurrence in an otherwise ordinary place with ordinary people.