Tom Cruise did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Vincent in Collateral.
Cruise plays wildly against his usual type of the lone hero here instead playing the villain of the film Vincent. Vincent is a paid assassin tasked with killing five people who are instrumental in a case against a L.A. crime boss (Javier Bardem), and holds Max at gunpoint to go from target to target. The interesting thing about Cruise's performance here is that, even though he is playing a character far different from the usual type he plays, Cruise does not exactly give a performance wholly unlike some of his earlier work. Some Tom Cruise deriders speak of an artifice in that movie star smile of his and Cruise perhaps toys with this idea in a way. Cruise still brings his considerable amount of charisma here as Vincent, but subverting it in a way that's quite striking. He has that smile, although obviously somewhat less extreme here, but it is here that Cruise makes that smile truly something that is artificial and hollow. It really something rather brilliant that Cruise does here as he brings that Tom Cruise star power in the way he presents Vincent yet pulls the rug out from under you to reveal it as only a mask for something else.
That something else being the killer that Vincent is, and Cruise is fantastic in the way he portrays the scenes where Vincent is making sure he takes care of his targets. Cruise does not portray Vincent as some sort of psychopath who takes pleasure in the people he kills rather Cruise always presents Vincent as a true professional in every sense. The problem is Cruise shows Vincent to be so professional that he ends up being quite disturbing in his own way. Cruise is excellent in the action scenes where Vincent takes down the guys as in every instance Cruise plays it as Vincent is all about the utmost precision. He's not trying to kill to make people suffer, but rather simply kill them so he can finish the job. Cruise's physical performance is terrific here because of how well he suggests actually the history of Vincent just through his performance. Cruise's whole manner is so refined in the fight that when the film alludes to Vincent being former special forces this is made absolutely convincing by Cruise. I love the way Cruise can be so chilling despite often keeping such a calm as Vincent.
Cruise is able to bring such a menace to Vincent simply through how to the point he makes Vincent in doing the job. One of my favorite moments of his is when Max is stopped by the cops and Vincent's mission is threatened if they find the body of one of his targets in the taxi's trunk. Cruise is perfect in the moment as he tells Max that the men will die if he does not stop them from searching the car while adding that they probably have families. Cruise is incredibly matter of fact in the way he says it, but it conveys without question that the professionalism of Vincent will ensure that the men will die without question. For the majority of the victims Cruise portrays Vincent's method as absurdly cruel in his manner as he kills them. What is so cruel about is the fact that Cruise shows little emotion about what he does, and the people he kills are barely even allowed his hate before he ends their life. Cruise creates a frightening predictability in Vincent in that you always know that there is absolutely no mercy in his oh so professional approach.
In between each kill though there is time given to the conversations between Vincent and Max as Vincent presents his world view to Max as they drive along to the next kill. Cruise is brilliant in these scenes as he delivers every one of Vincent's statements with a cruel nihilism. Vincent believes the least in people and Cruise again is very effective in how intensely he makes Vincent's cruel points. What is most compelling about these scenes though is the way Cruise does bring some a very subtle emotionality in Vincent in these scenes. Cruise does not dwell on this often just a brief momentary reaction in his eyes as he speaks, but Cruise suggests more than simply that his world view matches his disregard for human life. Cruise in the very understated emotions he brings behind the nihilism suggests this runs deeper in Vincent. Cruise suggests that the nihilism which is strong in him comes from Vincent own unfortunate childhood. Cruise never lets us in completely into Vincent's mind, but he rather powerfully does offer some insight into it.
Cruise is outstanding in every aspect of this performance as he completely commands the film, controlling every scene he is in, and to be honest I find it hard to see how anyone could see Foxx as the stand out and not Cruise. Cruise dominates here and what I love is how much he does with Vincent past simply being the villain. Of course as the villain Cruise is indeed extremely menacing, but he does even more than that with the way he creates a believable man along with that. One of my favorite moments in Cruise's performance is when in the last target when Max confronts him Vincent actually does hesitate once to challenge Max to actually do something. This might not have worked at all but the way Cruise makes it believable in the way he has built the way Vincent's reactions have changed toward Max. The best scene though I feel is the final moments of his performance as Vincent accepts his defeat. Cruise manages to be even slightly poignant as he shows sadly pondering once more on his view of world as he sees he has nothing left.