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Here's what happens at the end of Collateral (2004):

The taxi driver manages to defeat a highly skilled hitman. Is it mere luck?

Should we accept this as a screw-up on the part of the movie makers, or is there something I'm missing?

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Id just like to know if he went to jail or did she help him beat his case cuzz the police new who he was im sure they didnt stop lookin for him i kno he went bsck to see his mama these are the real questions is there a part 2 if so where the hell have i been –  user4997 May 31 '13 at 2:30

9 Answers 9

up vote 1 down vote accepted

Not very credible at all.

It was clear to Vincent that his cover was blown and that escaping was far more important than finishing his hits, despite his discussions with Max about the meaninglessness of life, it was obvious that Vincent planned on living through this assignment from the beginning. That makes his actions at the end so incongruous as nothing prior to them reflected a desire by Vincent to end his own life.

As far as Max: With no apparent military or tactical training how he could be expected fire and hit someone in such an emotionally charged situation surpasses "luck" and bordered on the improbable. Trained marksmen have been known to miss targets at close quarters under ideal conditions so a "lucky shot" killing, not injuring someone, especially when it wasn't a head shot smacks of narrative conceit.

Finally, most bullet wounds are non-fatal despite what people have been trained by Hollywood to believe. Had Vincent been laying on the floor bleeding heavily, the scene would have been somewhat more "realistic." Having him sitting and dying passively is again more a narrative device than anything else.

Unfortunately, unless you surprise a professional assassin and shoot him/her from ambush, your odds of surviving an encounter with them are extremely low, bordering on the miraculous.

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"That makes his actions at the end so incongruous as nothing prior to them reflected a desire by Vincent to end his own life." - And what makes you think his actions at the end reflected a desire to end his own life at all? –  Napoleon Wilson Mar 11 at 7:29

It's underestimation by Vincent really. Throughout the movie he continued to use Max as the cab driver on the assumption that there is nothing Max would try to do to injure Vincent. For example after shooting in the club incident, Vincent retained control by shooting the FBI agent and telling Max to get back in the car.

The lead up to Vincent's death shows him anxious to finish his last hit as well as maybe a little exhausted from the long night and trying to get on the back of the train. Also there was a short blackout right before Max and Vincent starting shooting at the door. It isn't clear whether the bullet that hit Max did indeed come from the window portion or metal portion of the door.

With all these factors included and allowing the audience to believe in a little luck, I think we can accept the scene as fair reality.

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The person shot was a police officer, not an FBI agent. –  Mistah Mix Mar 10 at 14:37

The final shootout has Vincent doing his highly practiced and refined Mozambique Drill (a favorite of Mann, clearly underscored by holes in the train car doors) while Max is shaking and shooting like mad, with his bullets ricocheting through the glass by chance.

Vincent's training may have taken over as it is wont to do and drove him to do the wrong thing in that very niche situation.

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+1 for Mozambique Drill. –  karthik Dec 24 '11 at 7:41
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Can you re-phrase the last sentence. It's a currently hard to read. –  Tshepang Dec 25 '11 at 11:49

I wouldn't call it screw-up but really luck.

I myself especially liked this and found it somehow realistic. Luck is something often regarded unrealistic because we await movies to happen in a predictable way (a taxi driver not having a chance against a trained hitman). But indeed luck is something completely realistic and happening in real life, just not that predictable or probable. So why not just let Max be lucky, Vincent is just a human, too.

In fact Vincent was not defeated in a tactical gunfight where he might play his strengths, but in a more or less surprising situation. It is indeed a bit strange that Max doesn't get a small wound (can't remember in detail, maybe he got) but in this particular situation (the end scene with both standing opposed each other behind the train doors) there wasn't much Vincent could do better with his years of training and experience than count on his luck, like Max.

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Max doesn't get wounded. –  Tshepang Dec 2 '11 at 16:23

Most people don't understand the ending, and think it's just a traditional Hollywood happy ending, another deus ex machina to give us what we expect.

Very few viewers seem to realize that the ending is not just the final confrontation between Max and Vincent, but between their own philosophy on life itself. Vincent is an extremely well-disciplined hitman but his outlook is fundamentally nihilistic in nature. While he appreciates the spontaneity embodied by the jazz music they discuss, and seems to thrive on adaptability, in the end he loses the gunfight precisely because he's become too set in his patterns (specifically, his rote technique of shooting a Mozambique-type failure drill by firing a double tap into the sternum, and a third shot to the head).

In contrast, Max, the man who has lived the past twelve years of his life in a regimented, automated pattern (visit his mother, keep the cab clean, always look to his photo of the Maldives to calm his nerves, etc), learns via Vincent to break out of his habits and realize his full abilities as a person. Vincent's speeches about improvisation, adaptation, taking risks, and appreciating spontaneity set the stage for Max's transformation, and it's Vincent's threats that force him to take action when Vincent finally starts threatening the people he cares about (his mother, Daniel, Annie, etc). Under stress, Max manages to find himself and succeeds at putting on a performance for Felix, crashes the taxi to wrest control of the situation back away from Vincent, and finally manages to muster the courage to directly confront him in the last few scenes.

Going into the final shootout, these factors are what determined who won, and why. Vincent becomes stuck following his predetermined path of killing Annie, and can't break free of his imperative of finishing the job, even though a hitman as experienced as he should have known to call it off by then. Max has found himself under fire, and once running is no longer an option, realizes he has to finally make a stand. Vincent's penultimate statement "I do this for a living!" reflects the fact that he no longer knows or remembers any other way than what he's doing.

At the moment of gunfire, Vincent attempts to engage Max using the exact same tactic he's used all throughout the film: double tap to the chest followed by a headshot. He sees Max, he aims at Max, he fires...but he's no longer able to process changes or adapt to them, and he fails to register or react to the presence of the steel door frame between them. All three of the shots from his stolen S&W impact the door frame and fail to penetrate (which is fairly realistic). In contrast, we can see Max clearly close his eyes and fire blindly. He's not become some super-skilled gunman, he's simply learned how to let go and act rather than stall, delay, or deny reality. Most of his shots go wild, but one passes through the window and is just good enough to score a vital hit on Vincent. Luck, but luck driven by their respective mental states at the time. Max won because he succeeded at learning from Vincent's philosophy, while Vincent died because he lost track of the same.

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Welcome to Movies & TV and congratulations to an amazingly great debut answer about one of Mann's best movies! Sounds absolutely reasonable and fitting to me, thank you very much. –  Napoleon Wilson Jun 8 at 15:32
    
Excellent answer. I really like this movie but as you said, I never really caught the undercurrents. I recently watched this on a premium channel, and you are very spot on with your analysis. As Napoleon Wilson said, welcome to Movies.SE. Hopefully you'll stick around. –  CGCampbell Jun 9 at 21:24

There's always the possibility that Vincent had begun to like Max and was tired of his line of work. Perhaps Vincent was ready for it to end.

I personally like to think its a combination of this and the other answers.

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You can see Max take a small step to the side while he's firing. Perhaps by firing once or twice--giving Vincent a target--and then moving, Vincent ended up firing at the wrong spot.

While this is logical and makes Max look smart, Vincent was unloading his weapon through a small window with Max directly in the path. I really don't see how Max could have remained unscathed other than luck.

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This ending was unacceptable because Cruise clearly showed he was a top notch hitman. I'm not gonna believe for one second that he can take out like at least 5 trained Federal agents in the club scene and then get killed by a taxi driver. The transformation of the Jamie Foxx in the movie from an everyday guy to a badass in one night is completely unrealistic.

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They were not federal agents. They were bodyguards of his intended victim and cartel gunmen sent to kill "Vincent" ( who they believed to be Jamie Foxx) if he failed. –  Mistah Mix Mar 10 at 14:35
    
"The transformation of the Jamie Foxx in the movie from an everyday guy to a badass in one night is completely unrealistic." - In which way was he transformed into a badass at all? –  Napoleon Wilson Mar 11 at 7:39

Here's the thing; Cruise's character is a hitman, but there is no indication that his hits have ever known the hit was coming. Killing someone, while requiring a certain resolve, does not necessarily require a tremendous amount to skill if the victim is unaware they are a target. As such, it's possible to believe that Cruise's character was defeated by Foxx's character in that, in a face-to-face showdown they are both on similar ground. I don't recall if Cruise's character was said to have any combat experience or not, so by my assumption neither of them had ever fired a weapon at someone firing back at them.

Now, the flip side is that it is likely Foxx's character never fired a gun, period. He wouldn't be familiar with recoil and sighting a target. In this respect, Cruise's character clearly has the upper hand. But on a moving train, which tends to jitter to some degree, that upper hand could be outweighed by a little bit of luck. Perhaps it jittered at the exact moment the triggers were pulled? Foxx's character could have been pushed out of the way, just as Cruise's character was pushed into the path of the bullet.

Most Action movies do, to some degree, require a "suspension of disbelief". Very few of them are actually plausable. So, in that universe, I'd say it's definitely within scope to accept the outcome.

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Though Vincent's previous actions (in the back street and in the club) show that he is indeed capable of acting quick and precise and he seems like a very trained fighter overall. Yet I agree that in this particular situation in the train that didn't help him so much. –  Napoleon Wilson Mar 10 at 20:54

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