Scott Dolan (Frank Grillo) and his new bride Taylor (Jaimie Alexander) are in Morocco, staying at a beautiful hotel for their honeymoon, and yet there's tension in the air. They argue over Scott's use of his BlackBerry in bed, and Taylor's late-night cigarette break, and the next day, on the way to some distant ruins, she seems distant and distracted. Scott's trying to coax a reason out of her when another vehicle roars up to their desert trail and the driver tries to get Scott to pull over. The two get into a chase and speed over a hill at 90MPH, flying directly into a van with a flat and the car that stopped to help. The resulting crash kills three people, stranding all of them in the desert. Unsurprisingly Scott, Taylor, the survivors (Marie-Josee Croze, Moussa Maaskri), and an additional man with a broken-down motorcycle (Roschdy Zem) are at each other's throats...even before the other driver is identified as Travis (Charlie Bewley), convinced by Taylor, during their affair, to help kill Scott.
For the most part, it's easy to be of two minds about Collision: each negative has a positive aspect to it (or vice versa). On one hand, it's follows the low-budget suspense thriller template to a T: it's all about a bunch of characters who are trapped / stranded in a single location, and each one of them has their own secret they're trying to hide from the other characters. On the other hand, Collision is blessed with a talented cast and a decent screenplay that make the film work by downplaying the cliches rather than trying to bleed dramatic blood from tired stones, as if the audience has never seen one of these things before. It's not a great movie, but it's executed as well as one could possibly expect this script, cast, and crew to manage.
For example: one of the crash survivors is a convict, in the middle of transport when the accident occurs. Before anyone is able to climb out of their wrecked cars and get their bearings, this character manages to ditch their handcuffs and present themselves as a free man. All of this is shown in sequence, so the audience knows the character's true identity, but the other characters don't. It's one of the oldest threads in the thriller book, and it would be exhausting for characters to miss evidence scene after scene, but director / writer David Marconi doesn't waste time with "near miss" drama. The point of the backstory isn't to artificially provide tension, but to help explain the character's motivation and attitude.
Unfortunately, Collision builds to an ending that is not only poorly paced, but also morally ugly. With almost 20 minutes to go, the film switches gears, focusing on two different threads playing out in more of a race-against-time format. The main thread involves the Taylor character and the repercussions of plotting to kill Scott. Although Marconi clearly believes he's provided both Taylor and Scott with motivation, the balance is distinctly biased in favor of Scott. It's absolutely true that Taylor is cheating and planned to murder Scott; the accuracy of Taylor's accusation that Scott is stealing can only be inferred, leaving only her complaints that he's controlling (not really a crime, and certainly not one Taylor couldn't have escaped from) and "paranoid" (which, given her plan, is justified). Alexander plays the role as if Taylor should be looked at as smart and even victimized, but there's little evidence she's anything but manipulative and unremorseful. By the time their story is reaching its climax, the balance of sympathy is so out-of-whack that it twists the lens through which Scott's actions are viewed, practically praising some particularly awful events.
Throughout, Grillo, Marie-Josee Croze, and Moussa Maaskri are all compelling in their roles, careful to play the truth about their characters rather than what the audience knows or doesn't know. The stand-out performance, however, is Roschdy Zem as Saleh, the mysterious man who appears, explaining his motorcycle broke down. Although the extended finale is awkward either way, his character gets a chance to shine at the end, when his true intentions are revealed. He plays his character with emotional economy, showing depth when he needs to, and remaining natural otherwise. Without the simple compassion and satisfaction of his character's backstory, Collision's ending would be truly unfortunate.
When in doubt about the "action" quotient of your standard Blu-Ray artwork, tilt the picture at an angle and call it a day. I suppose Collision gives the prospective renter / purchaser a good sense of why it's got the title it does, but it's pretty simple, right down to the blocky "action font." The disc comes in a standard eco-friendly Viva Elite Blu-Ray case, and there is an insert with the digital copy code on it.
The Video and Audio
Presented in 2.40:1 1080p AVC, Collision looks the way one comes to expect from modern digital productions: razor-sharp detail, no grain, middling low-light performance. The finest textures are reproduced with excellent clarity, from clothes to the rocks and sand surrounding the characters. Dark scenes look a little murky -- not soft or smeary, but a little deeper blacks would serve the picture well. Sound is an excellent DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which has plenty of big action moments to work with, such as the spectacular car crash which drives the plot, amidst some nicely balanced dialogue scenes which convey distance between characters and the subtleties of the actors' line readings. Ambience is not as relevant as one might expect (the pure silence of the desert is mentioned), but the music adds vibrantly realized flavor. For a French production, the disc is bizarrely French-unfriendly, offering no alternative audio tracks, and only English and French subtitles, and English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing.
Two interview segments are included, one with director / writer David Marconi (17:51) and the other with actors Frank Grillo, Jaimie Alexander, Roschdy Zem, Marie-Josee Croze, and Moussa Maaskri (4:36). Given the somewhat ugly nature of the film's conclusion, it's a little startling to hear Marconi say the Frank Grillo character and his relationship is based partially on his own experiences. Hmm. Marconi also talks about the stunts, the characters and what went into them, and a little bit about his directorial style. The actor interview, as one can guess from the length, is far less insightful, tapping into only very basic plot and character information. The most interesting thing about this is that the film clips are all dubbed in French. The French-speaking actors also speak French, with very tiny English subtitles.
Trailers for Divergent, The Frozen Ground, Empire State, and Escape Plan play before the main menu, and are accessible under the special features menu. An original trailer for Collision is also included.
Even if it had a better ending, the pleasures of Collision would be minor at best. Its success as a thriller is more about technical prowess and Marconi's ability to pull back on old cliches than it is on any real sense of invention or wit. All things considered, skip it.
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