There’s no doubting the high production value or talented ensemble of actors when it comes to Collateral but ultimately the writing for this 4 part crime thriller just doesn’t match up to the glossy front the show flaunts. Despite only having 4 episodes to play with, Collateral somehow manages to feel overlong and rushed at the same time. With a meandering plot revolving around the killing of an immigrant pizza delivery driver and a forced, politically driven narrative about refugees, Collateral’s problems ultimately overpower its impressive cinematography making it more disappointing than enjoyable.
The first episode is by far the strongest of the four and begins with a slickly presented introduction to London and some of the key characters in the show. An innocent pizza delivery results in cold blooded murder and what follows is a show that flirts between crime thriller and mystery genres with DI Kip Glaspie (Carey Mulligan) playing the stereotypical no-nonsense detective investigating the case. Overlapping subplots involving labour politician David Mars (John Simm) and his bisexual priest girlfriend as well as another involving single Mum Karen Mars (Billie Piper) flesh out the story and eventually blend together but there’s a real disjointed nature to how these stories play out. To make matters worse, an uninteresting plot involving the killer is included here too from the second episode onward. There’s a poorly written, apathetic explanation for why they killed the pizza man with a conspiracy and higher powers at play but its a far cry from what the show began as.
Collateral fronts as a mystery for most of the investigation with the police whilst hilariously forgetting the killer is revealed at the end of the first episode making the slow pace a pointless exercise. As the series progresses, what begins as an interesting, intricate murder exploring societal views toward migrants quickly escalates to a country wide scandal and politically driven narrative that loses its initial effectiveness. It’s a shame really, the first episode holds some real promise and the gorgeous cinematography throughout the series helps give Collateral an artistic flair but once the killer is revealed at the end of the first episode, Collateral loses momentum and eventually fizzles out before it ever reaches its conclusion.
With a talented cast including John Simm, Billie Piper and Carey Mulligan, Collateral certainly isn’t without talent and the actors do their best with the lacklustre script they’re given to work with here. Conversations feel rushed in some scenes with no respite between sentences as the actors scramble to get their lines out. Other times the dialogue is unnaturally paced with some woefully poor lines that just don’t reflect how people actually speak. There are exceptions of course but the incessant need to remind the audience about immigrants, refugees and the political landscape of the country in as many conversations as possible borders on preachy, regardless of which side of the fence you sit on in this debate. Of course, we’re all for giving an art piece meaning but here it’s done in such a haphazard way that it loses any meaning, coming across as contrived and exhausting.
When it comes to the slick editing, gorgeous cinematography and some of the acting, Collateral certainly paints a pretty picture but under the hood there’s a lacklustre, uneventful crime thriller fronting as a mystery. Bogged down by unnaturally written dialogue, a pacing that somehow feels overlong and rushed at the same time and a story that loses momentum long before the climactic episode, Collateral is certainly disappointing given the promise shown in the first episode. The poorly executed politically driven message about migration is essentially the proverbial cherry on the unremarkable cake that is Collateral.