Tom Cruise as Vincent, professional freelance assassin
Los Angeles, January 2004
Release Date: August 6, 2004
Director: Michael Mann
Costume Designer: Jeffrey Kurland
Tom Cruise’s Costume Designer: Kendall Errair
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
A year before he jumped up and down on Oprah’s couch, Tom Cruise played a role no one saw coming: a world-weary, cold-blooded, and ruthless paid assassin. In the film, Cruise’s assassin, Vincent, kidnaps a taxi cab driver named Max (played by Jamie Foxx) and forces him to chauffeur him to his various assassinations. Tension grows as Max realizes he is likely to be Vincent’s final kill of the night.
For his look in the Michael Mann flick, a modern take on Cary Grant’s famous North by Northwest suit was developed for Cruise’s character. The choice is an interesting contrast: in North by Northwest, Grant’s character is supposed to be an innocent nobody being chased by assassins… in Collateral, Cruise plays an assassin tormenting an innocent nobody.
NB: I first posted this on October 23, 2012, but it was one of my first posts and I determined that such an iconic and popular suit would need better detail than I initially gave.
What’d He Wear?
Vincent’s suit stresses minimalism, with solid colors, straight lines, single buttons, and simple jetted pockets. There are no belts and belt loops, cuffs, pocket flaps, or extra buttons to break up the flow. Reflecting his worldview, everything about Vincent is black & white – his shirt is white, his watch, gun, sunglasses, and shoes are black – and the rest is gray – hair, suit, and tie. The sleek look elicits machine imagery – Vincent is a killing machine.
Darren Franich summed up this “gray” moment in his praising piece for Entertainment Weekly:
There’s the sound of a plane landing, and we see a man arriving in Los Angeles. He is gray: Gray suit, gray tie, gray hair, gray stubble that looks painted on. He wears sunglasses inside. There’s an angle where you watch Collateral and you pretend that the movie is trying to make this man look boring, or unmemorable. But that’s not really possible. The man is played by Tom Cruise.
According to Michael Mann in Premiere magazine, the gray custom-tailored wool suit was allegedly a product of the “best tailor in Kowloon”, although Cruise’s frequent costumer Kendall Errair is credited for Collateral as well. Mann’s goal with Vincent’s attire is to make sure he looks good but inconspicuous; Mann actually made Tom Cruise deliver for FedEx around Los Angeles to see if he could be anonymous enough to do it unrecognized. Evidently, this was successful.
More insight came from Tom Cruise during his August 2004 interview with Paul Fischer of Dark Horizons:
There is a clear and distinct physical look to Cruise’s Vincent, which encapsulates who the character is, from hair to what he wears. “He definitely thinks about that suit and I know we thought a lot about that suit,” Cruise says laughingly.
Although Vincent serves Mann’s purpose of blending in with his light gray semi-solid wool suit, anyone with a trained sartorial eye would be able to tell that Vincent’s suit has been customized for a man who knows what he wants, far from the standard off-the-rack found at Macy’s.
Vincent’s single-breasted jacket closes in the front with a low-stance single gray plastic button. The slim notch lapels have shallow gorges and a diagonal buttonhole stitched through the left lapel.
The shoulders of Vincent’s suit are padded with roping at each sleevehead. Although the rest of the suit is closely fitted for Cruise’s frame, the sleeves are loose to allow for the rapid movements of a pistol-wielding assassin. The long double side vents provide an additional advantage for a gunman who would need quick combat-situation access to the pistol holstered on the side of his hip, as Vincent best demonstrates when confronting two scumbag muggers in an alley.
Like the suitcoat itself, Vincent’s cuffs also close with a single button. It’s worth noting that these are functional “surgeon’s cuff” buttons, most evident when the unbuttoned cuff is seen while Vincent is searching for Annie in her building.
Even the pockets on Vincent’s suit jacket offer minimalist details. The breast pocket is welted, though the welt is much slimmer – likely 1/2″ wide – than most welt pockets. The hip pockets are straight and jetted with no flaps.
Everything about Vincent’s suit trousers reflect both the man’s mechanized and minimalist tendencies. There are no frills: no pockets, no pleats, and no belt loops; only a single button on the extended squared waist tab breaks them up. Only a man who never changes his physical shape could wear pants with no way of varying their fit.
In keeping with his version of a “business uniform”, Vincent wears a white cotton dress shirt with a long point collar, plain front, and double cuffs that are fastened with flat white discs. The cuff links are a surprising choice for a man who requires such rapid hand movements for his job, but French cuffs add a touch of subtle luxury that would be desirable to a self-assured man like Vincent.
When he is first seen, Vincent is wearing a light gray necktie that is just a shade darker than his suit and perfectly continues his monochromatic theme. Once the night’s excitement ramps up, Vincent ditches the tie with his first corpse in the trunk of Max’s taxi cab.
Another accessory that Vincent sports early in Collateral is a pair of Silhouette 4048 “Titan Minimal Art” sunglasses with black titanium frames and dark smoke-colored “Minimal X” lenses. As Tom Cruise was a real life fan of Silhouette specs in real life, this pair was supposedly customized for his role as Vincent.
Vincent wears simple black calf leather moc-toe derbies with waxed laces through two eyelets. Light gray dress socks continue the leg line of Vincent’s suit trousers into his shoes.
Vincent’s Heckler & Koch USP-45 is holstered in a custom-made black IWB holster carried on the right side of his waistband. The holster was created for the production and certified by the Prop Store of London when auctioned in April 2013. A commenter stated that the holster was an original G-Code standard holster fitted with their early IWB adapter, so this would make a fine choice if you want to carry à la Vincent without going to the trouble of getting a custom-made holster.
The double magazine pouches for Vincent’s USP-45 mags are Safariland CD-Auto holsters, which Vincent clips onto the front left side of his trouser waistband. The perfect fit of Vincent’s holster and magazine carries implies that his gun is part of Vincent.
Vincent’s preference for subtle luxury is also expressed through his wristwatch, a IWC Vintage Ingenieur Automatic IW3233. With its round stainless 42.5mm case, black dial, and black alligator strap, it perfectly fits the steel tones of his outfit although its $7,000 price tag means that Vincent better be careful not to get blood on it.
Go Big or Go Home
The music in Collateral is very diverse and cool, with a blues-techno-funk original score and source music including Miles Davis, The Roots, and a jazzed up version of Beethoven’s “Air” by Klazz Brothers and Cuba Percussion.
Tom Rothrock also contributed two badass original tracks: the moody and pulsating “Briefcase” and the funkily badass “Rollin’ Crumblin'”, played when Detective Fanning discovers Vincent’s first crime scene.
Vincent’s mechanization – as close to a “killing machine” as it gets – serves as both his raison d’être and his hamartia; when it comes to taking out a mark, he is as good as it gets. But when the elements are changed beyond his control, he is unable to adapt and improvise unlike those jazz musicians he admires.
Vincent understands people, but he can’t understand the power of emotion. He sees an armed Max as no threat but fails to take into account that Max’s meekness would be overcome by his affection for Annie and willingness to save her. Although Vincent’s years of training and experience should give him an edge on the subway gunfight, he reverts only to what he knows – two shots to the chest and a final shot to the head. He naturally tries this on Max, failing to take into account the metal panels on the subway door that block his shots. He reaches for a reload, forgetting that he is now armed with someone else’s weapon – the guard’s S&W 5906 – and thus doesn’t have the spare magazines to continue shooting.
Max, on the other hand, has been adapting and improvising all night. He has to do whatever he can to save his and Annie’s lives. This is likely the first time he’s ever held a gun in his life, and he shoots wildly. The untrained Max doesn’t even think to employ the “Mozambique drill” that so many of Mann’s professional criminals use, and thus his wild shots penetrate the glass of the subway door and fatally wound the tragically automated Vincent.
Tools of Vincent’s trade include:
- Hewlett-Packard TC-1100 tablet PC
- Nokia 6800 cell phone with a fold-out QWERTY keyboard
- PNY Executive Attaché USB flash drive, provided by Felix
That’s cute and all, but eight years later, it would probably be much easier to just put everything he needs on an iPhone.
The one tool that can never be replaced by an iPhone, however, is Vincent’s trusty steel-bladed Sebenza knife with its gray titanium handle and distinctive blue thumbstud. Interestingly, the script originally called for “a Reeves folding hunter in dull metal”.
How to Get the Look
Vincent manages to look inconspicuous while still being privately stylish. A closer look would reveal that his normal-looking clothing and accessories are actually luxurious, but anyone who gets a closer look at Vincent usually ends up dead.
- Light gray tailored suit, consisting of:
- Single-breasted 1-button jacket with narrow notch lapels, narrowly-welted breast pocket, jetted hip pockets, 1-button cuffs, and long double rear vents
- Flat front trousers with fitted waistband and plain-hemmed bottoms
- White cotton dress shirt with large point collar, plain front, and double/French cuffs
- Light gray necktie
- White round disc cuff links
- Black leather 2-eyelet moc-toe derby shoes
- Light gray dress socks
- IWC Vintage Ingenieur Automatic IW3233 wristwatch with stainless case, black dial with white date window, and black alligator leather strap
- Silhouette 4048 “Titan Minimal Art” sunglasses (color code 6068) with black titanium frames and dark smoke-colored “Minimal X” lenses
- Black custom-made IWB holster, for H&K USP-45 pistol
- Black Safariland CD-Auto double magazine pouches, for H&K USP-45 magazines
As director Michael Mann is known for accuracy in some of the most popular “gun” movies of all time (Heat comes to mind), he would certainly outfit a professional hitman like Vincent with hardware appropriate for his profession. The Heckler & Koch USP-45 is an excellent choice that is very befitting of Vincent’s character: utilitarian, reliable, and practical.
Collateral writer Stuart Beattie clearly had this pistol in mind as he drafted the screenplay:
…and like lightning, Vincent’s .45 H+K is in his hand. To Max the .45 caliber bore is the diameter of the Spring Street tunnel.
The USP was introduced as a .40-caliber pistol for the military market in 1993, with Vincent’s model, the .45 ACP, introduced in May 1995. Despite its full size, which may normally be large for a small actor like Tom Cruise, it weighs less than two pounds when unloaded. Comparing the 1.75 lb. weight of the USP-45 to the 2.45 lb. M1911A1 makes the USP-45 a clear choice for an assassin who relies on concealed weapons. Furthermore, the USP-45 carries 12 rounds of .45 ACP (compared to the standard 1911’s seven) in the magazine, not to mention an extra in the chamber.
Cruise trained with the LAPD to look professional with the weapon, shown when he takes out two thugs with five shots in 1.4 seconds.
Although he typically doesn’t need to worry about stealth due to his personal efficiency standards, Vincent does carry the more “hitman-looking” Ruger Mk II target pistol, chambered for the venerable .22 Long Rifle (.22 LR) round and fitted with an integrated AAC Phoenix suppressor. He uses this pistol when taking out Daniel, the gregarious jazz club owner with a shady past. He loses it when Max tosses his briefcase onto the freeway and it is seen among Vincent’s items that scatter across the road.
For the final act, Vincent lifts a 9×19 mm Smith & Wesson 5906 from an office bodyguard. This is the stainless pistol seen in many screenshots and promotional material for the film.
The 5906 is from the third generation of Smith & Wesson’s stainless pistols, renewed each decade since the original run. It is derived from the Smith & Wesson Model 59, introduced in 1971 and refreshed in the 1980s as the Smith & Wesson 659 that is most famous to movie buffs as the pistol of choice carried by Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs. The S&W 5906 was developed in 1989 for the third and final generation of S&W’s stainless series.
Do Yourself A Favor And…
Buy the movie. To get a taste of just how extensively Tom Cruise trained for the role, check out the “yo homie” scene that I mention at least twice above:
You got ten minutes. 10:01? I drive the cab to the hospital and execute your mother on my way out of town, and don’t pretend indifference.
Collateral is set overnight from January 24-January 25, 2004. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I re-screencapped it on January 24, 2016. Eerie!