The characters in director Michael Mann's West Coast noir thriller Collateral (2004) starring Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx, provide excellent examples how Hollywood villains can teach self-improvement and how to get the most in life.
In fact, often you can learn more from Hollywood villains than you can from the heroes.
The plot in a nutshell is about Max (Jamie Foxx), an erudite cab driver who picks up Vincent (Tom Cruise), an assassin. Vincent's plan is to murder the witnesses overnight who are to testify at the trial of a drug lord the next day. The first hit goes awry exposing Vincent as an assassin. From this point forward Max is knowingly Vincent's hostage as they continue to drive through the night to kill each of his targets.
Vincent represents all the elements of someone who is crystal clear about his objective and pursues it ruthlessly, relentlessly and efficiently without any wasted time or motion. It's all hard work but it pays off repeatedly despite occasional setbacks. As Vincent succinctly put it, it's all about "adapting to the environment" to get things done and plays whatever character is required, from the charming chameleon to the hard-nosed businessman to immediately seize the opportunity.
On the other hand, Max has dreams of starting an exclusive limousine company for VIPs and does extensive research by collecting glossy brochures of town cars. But it's a dream that's never left the drawing board in 13 years. The similarities are that both men are highly intelligent, imaginative, creative and meticulous planners to the point of perfectionism.
And that's where it ends.
The big difference between Vincent and Max is that Vincent acts out of a sense of urgency. Vincent is in a profession in which "failure is not an option," while Max, as a cab driver, can waffle blissfully through life day dreaming about his VIP limousine service year after year about starting a VIP limousine service.
This all changes during this hostage encounter when Vincent applies Max's traits and tactics when his back is against the wall using his skills as a creative sort, personality and attitude to get out of a situation alive. Max's procrastination is self-inflicted.
It's the most insidious of our inner demons are quiet and unassuming that drain us of spunk and energy. We have dreams but do little or nothing to making them a reality, always making convenient excuses of how difficult it is and blaming everyone and everything around us when obstacles get in the way or when the project regresses. Like Max our excuse is that every element in our project must be perfect, when in fact perfection doesn't exist.
We're composed of the ying-yang element. We are dreamers like Max and we've also achieved goals in a no-nonsense manner like Vincent.
Imagine if we could achieve our dreams through more action.
That's why we must create a sense of urgency in some way in our moral, ethical and legal pursuits of our dreams and not let time slip away. Use Vincent's advice to propel yourself out of the psychological quicksand and seize the day - everyday - and live life now because life is shorter than we imagine. The video link below is a powerful cinematic snippet and wake-up call of how many of us go through life like a zombie. When faced with uncomfortable powerful truths that are meant to help us, we can become quite angry - angry at ourselves - for not doing something. I highly recommend taking a close look at Max's expression as Vincent tells Max the way it is.
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