With his last play being a bust and getting some of the worst reviews he's ever had, famous playwright Robert Longfellow (played by Martin Donovan) tries to escape to the home he grew up in. Hoping that he can relax some at his childhood home, Robert meets an old neighbor Gus (played by David Morse), an ex-con who seems to always be drunk. Being at his old home with his mother has turned into a nightmare for Robert as he faces the challenge of infidelity with Emma (Olivia Williams) a famous actress who was once in his old plays. But just as Robert comes to his decision, Gus comes over to Robert's home with a bag of alcohol wanting to catch up with each other. Thinking he will only be a few minutes talking to Gus, Robert quickly finds himself at the end of a gun as a hostage where he's forced to talk about his life.
I was actually pretty impressed with the performance given by both of these men in Collaborator. More so with David Morse than with Martin Donovan but both actors made their characters people that are relatable. Gus is that overbearing drunk that seems to be angry at the world becuase it don't share the same point of view and because he just can't quite understand anything or anyone that don't think the way he does. Throw in the alcohol and drugs he is always taking and now this character has become unhinged and very unpredictable. Whereas Robert is a character that's smart, his view on the politics and the American way are not quite acceptable to some, and he seems to lack any real emotion to the point that he just trudges along through the day. These men are polar opposites to each other and it's clearly seen through the performance that David Morse and Martin Donovan give. Because there's no action in this movie it's a character driven story that could have been extremely boring but these actors keep the characters are interesting and they kept me questioning what they were going to do next.
Maybe not all so original when it came to the main plot of a man being held hostage by a crazy guy but the reasons to why he was are, kind of. Collaborator does veer away from the main stream style of movies by not having any action while depending on a cast of 2 main actors to drive the story and it's because of this reason that it does stand out more.
One word, tense. Ok, well, two words, tense and suspenseful. From the start it's more suspenseful as I wonder what Robert Longfellow is going to do and then the suspense grows even more as Gus gets introduced. It quickly turns into a tense story as I sat waiting for the hammer to fall where everything turned bad for Robert. David Morse does an excellent job in making this movie so tense with his character Gus. It's not a dark or evil movie but it's not one where there was any moment that I thought it was a fairy tale, happily ever after movie.
It's rare that I don't know what's going to happen in a movie these days. Usually within 30 minutes of the story I know what's going to happen or at least who the villain of the story is. When the ending of this movie came along I was surprised with what happened because I just didn't see it ending that way. The story is interesting, as I just said it kept me guessing during the whole time. I really liked how the editing of this movie was set up because it was built as a continuous story. Sure most movies say they are but this movie has each scene set up with it connects with the last as well as going into the next seamlessly. When the characters move from one room to the next the scenes move with them where it don't feel like I was getting shown a different part of the story.
Though I liked how they set up Gus as the antagonist of the story there are plot points that are brought up that seem to just get swept away by having Robert acting cool with what was going on. While watching this movie I kept wondering what reason Gus had for holding Robert hostage but I really didn't decide on any solid answer. The best I came up with is that it was a chance happenstance that he was there at the time with Robert. Not only was that point left out of the story but there are other instances where there seems to be more going on but it's not taken anywhere. How was the footage of Robert and Emma acquired, who was the one that took it, what was the reason, exactly what are the views of Robert's plays, was Gus trying to set Robert up, did he have a master plan, or was he just stumbling along where one minute he seems stupid but the next he's a evil person with elaborate plans. It's because of these parts of the story that are given but never taken anywhere that hurts the movie the most.
Speed and flow are two of the best aspects of this movie. It moves along at a steady pace where it's easy to follow but it pulled me with the story as it progressed. I was able to keep up with what was going on while never getting bored while listening to these two men talk. Collaborator could easily have tanked because the movie depends so much on the characters and the dialog they have but the story never gets slow and it moves along at a decent speed. The only time the movie is a little slow is at the beginning when the two main characters get introduced but once they are and they are put together the story progresses at a good rate.
For a movie that is centered in one house, it's amazing what they did to make it stay interesting. I wouldn't say any of the camera work is breath taking or goes into new territory with how it's being filmed but it does have better than average cinematography. Most of the time the shots are the usual with some close ups and medium shots but the way it's shot keeps the story moving. At times it felt more like I was the person in the scene looking at what was going on rather than being shown what is happening. There's a subtle way this movie was filmed that makes it look good.
Collaborator is worth watching if you like movies that will make you pay attention to what's going on. It might not be a murder mystery, there are no high-speed chases, there's not even a shoot out, but what is there is a good story that takes you for a little suspenseful jaunt. I would rank this as a high rent or buy when it hits the discount rack, but it's one that is a good watch.