In a way, one of the more underrated, or at least slightly-less-than-discussed, screenplays in the genre. Collateral encompasses most every element you need–er, prefer–in an action/thriller. A ticking clock, high stakes, an innocent protagonist we can pull for, a “heartless” and dangerous villain. . . . Screenwriting 101, right?
But Stuart Beattie’s script is a richly-layered psychological study of character (yes, really) as much as it is a popcorn crime tale. As the story behind the story goes, apparently Beattie came up with the idea, or at least the seeds of the idea, when he was 17. A classic “what if __?” scenario that developed into a treatment, followed by a script, and the final product, which apparently hardly resembles its original incarnation. A testament to the screenwriting process in itself, by the way–rare is it when a writer’s first draft, or initial concept, sees the light of a projector.
When reading this draft, ignore the camera specifics and director notes and zero in on the plot, the structure, and how each character is developed in the first act. What’s said and what’s not said in dialogue, and how a reliance on action, on what we see and hear, push the story forward. Top-tier example of writing overall, and a script that should be considered one of the great thrillers of the modern era.