Collateral—An Equal and Opposite Reaction

Written by Brian Bitner

It’s unusual in a film that we’d spend almost as much time with the antagonist as with the protagonist, and it’s even more unusual for the two of them to be together nearly the entire time.

It follows, then, that Collateral’s antagonist would actually share many of the same beats as a traditional protagonist.

In fact, breaking down Max and Vincent’s journeys and exploring how the choices they make affect each other teaches us something very interesting. Let’s take a look:


MAX - Max sees himself as an entrepreneur and a successful business owner. In his mind, he already owns a limousine company and has it all together.

VINCENT - Vincent presents himself as a cold-hearted killer who believes death is just a part of life. There’s no difference between genocide in Africa or holding a gun to someone’s head and pulling the trigger.


MAX - Max tells himself driving a cab is temporary. Rather than take action to move his life forward, it’s easier to tell yourself change is just around the corner.

VINCENT - Just as with Max, Vincent is afraid to let his true self come forward, suppressing his compassion and hiding behind his facade.


MAX - Max is strong, smart, and able to adapt when the situation demands it. Somewhere deep down is the man he believes himself to be.

VINCENT - Vincent is compassionate and even protective when he meets someone he likes. He genuinely wants to make a connection with someone and seems to find this in Max.


MAX - Vincent asks Max to take him on as an all-night fare; despite this being against regulations, Max says yes. When Vincent’s first victim falls on Max’s cab, Max is then forced at gunpoint to take Vincent to the locations of his last four victims. By briefly stepping outside his comfort zone, Max is propelled into a terrifying ordeal, but it’s through this experience that he will learn how to escape his comfort zone completely.

VINCENT - This moment—the body falling on Max's cab—is also Vincent's inciting incident. Now that Max knows what he’s up to, Vincent will either have to kill him or figure out another solution.


MAX - Rather than just accepting his fate, Max begins exploring ways to change his situation. He tries to escape, argues a case for Vincent to spare Daniel the jazz club owner, and finally destroys Vincent’s data knowing full well Vincent may kill him in return.

VINCENT - As Vincent grows attached to Max, we begin to see his compassion surface. He shows genuine empathy for Max’s mother and on multiple occasions, chooses not to kill Max when it would almost certainly be the smart move (from Vincent’s assumed viewpoint, at least).


MAX - In his meeting with Felix, Max lets his strong, defiant self truly emerge for the first time. When placed in a life or death situation, Max learns how to adapt and survive.

VINCENT - After showing a genuine adoration for Daniel’s music and life experience, Vincent laments having to kill him. Rather than letting his better angels take hold, however, Vincent chooses to carry out his task. Where Max has learned to change for the better, Vincent has not.


MAX - When Vincent kills Detective Fanning, both Max and the audience realize there is no one coming to Max’s rescue. He’ll have to get out of this on his own.

VINCENT - When Max challenges Vincent’s viewpoint, calling him “low, my brother, way low,” Vincent retaliates, but we see severe doubt in his eyes. Max is asking why Vincent is the way he is, and Vincent realizes he doesn’t have an answer.


MAX - After finally escaping from Vincent, Max realizes Annie is Vincent’s final target. Max must take action, rather than just going along for the ride and hoping to survive.

VINCENT - When Max crashes the cab and escapes, he strips Vincent of his transportation and his unwilling accomplice. Vincent has lost control of the situation and is running out of time.


MAX - In a desperate shootout, Max puts himself in full view of Vincent, gets “lucky with the lights” (a phrase Max says several times early in the film, modestly attributing his speed to the traffic lights being kind to him), and is able to shoot his pursuer.

VINCENT - Vincent faces off against Max, but when he receives a fatal wound, he decides to accept it. (NOTE: Modern screenwriters may bemoan this deus ex machina moment, but if we consider Vincent’s narrative of a Greek tragedy, it’s a classic moment of the “gods” stepping in to punish the sins of the tragic hero.)


MAX - A changed man, Max walks from the scene into a new day, with the woman he finally managed to call by his side.

VINCENT - Vincent shows regret for his cold lifestyle and admits no one will mourn his passing, albeit in not so many words.


By comparing Max and Vincent’s narrative arcs, we can see them each as the protagonist of his own story.

Max is the protagonist of a modern drama, in which he is forced to change and by doing so, is able to overcome his weakness and his adversary.

Vincent, however, is the protagonist of a classic tragedy. His tragic flaw triumphs over his inner self, which renders him incapable of change and ultimately leads to his defeat at the hands of his antagonist.

The midpoint, then, becomes the crucial moment where each character makes his choice. Max allows his powerful inner self to come out in his meeting with Felix, whereas when Vincent feels a connection with Daniel and considers letting him live, he buries his feelings, instead letting his facade take control.

It’s one thing to create an antagonist who comes across as a three-dimensional human being with clear and understandable motives, but to craft one with a complete narrative arc whose journey is both reflective of and antithetical to that of the protagonist is an impressive feat to say the least.


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My Thoughts on Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Ok, I just saw it for the second time, and here are my rambling thoughts on Star Wars: The Last Jedi. (spoilers ahead, very very much so)


TL;DR — I really, really love it. There are some noteworthy flaws that keep it from being spotless, but overall it aims higher than almost any other Star Wars film and for the most part hits the mark.

So, I enjoyed the movie the first time around, but there were some parts that really disappointed me (Las Vegas town sequence, Finn/Rose storyline, Poe/Holdo storyline). This time, knowing what to expect, they bothered me less and I actually appreciated the merit of them further. In the case of Poe/Holdo storyline, seeing it with new eyes made me like it a lot.


To begin this ramble, I think it’s important to address context, because it’s impossible to treat a Star Wars movie like any other movie.

If you go in expecting Children of Men, you’ll be as disappointed as if you go into Children of Men expecting it to be Inside Out. So the context that I view these new films with is what I presume to be the marching orders given to each director from Disney:

  1. Create a thing that will make us a lot of money (thus widely accessible and fun)
  2. Set up and carry on the saga so we can make future money
  3. Sell lots of toys
  4. Make something artistically resonant if you can.

I think Rian Johnson fought his way all the way through and delivered on step 4, which I think The Force Awakens wanted to do, but didn’t have time for.

I think it's also important to establish that I am definitely a fanboy. I love Star Wars, it's the reason I decided I wanted to make movies as child. I even managed to really enjoy certain aspects of the prequels back in the day (nothing cooler than a purple light saber). So, judge me as you wish.

I’m going to break down my thoughts act by act, beginning with Act One.


Act One

"Will Luke train rey?"

Act One: “Will Luke Train Rey?”

(Opening of the film to Finn/Rose embarking on their journey, Luke reluctantly agreeing to train Rey.)

I think Act One is fine. A bit of misfire with humor at the beginning (“Holding for General Hugs”) but I think this section is aimed at a younger demographic than I. Poe, Finn, and Kylo get their character needs expressed. Poe: “Can he grow beyond a hotshot pilot and become a leader?” Finn: “Will he always run away from the fight?” Kylo: “Will he turn from the dark side?” There are porgs and fighting and it’s a fun start to a movie.

I thought the opening battle was well done, I actually cared about the girl who is later revealed to be Rose's sister. I think Johnson did a good job of establishing stakes and making sure the fun opening moments also had consequences.

I’m going to go on record here saying that I really like when Leia uses the Force. The imagery of it is a little awkward, but the meaning behind it got me both times. Leia, twin sister of Luke, daughter of Anakin, leader of the Resistance, gets a moment to be a badass Force user. We are given a glimpse of what was promised but never delivered upon when Yoda in Empire Strikes Back responds to Obi-Wan’s “He is our last hope” with, “No…there is another.” AND I love that Leia’s power isn’t something violent or aggressive, but extreme resilience. For someone who has lost her father, baby daddy, only son, and her entire home planet, and still soldiers on, I think it’s only fitting and overwhelmingly deserved.

While there is no Death Star to blow up this time around, there is more or less the same mechanism in place. “We can’t get close enough to the Resistance ships to blow them up yet, but eventually they’ll run out of fuel!” felt a bit like a stretch, but second time around I was fine with it. Ticking time bomb established.


Act Two

"Will luke successfully train rey?"

Act Two: “Will Luke Successfully Train Rey?”

(Beginning of training to Rey deciding she can turn Kylo and leaving Luke behind.)

This act has some AWESOME stuff in it thematically, but is dragged down by the length of the Vegastown sequence and how long that sequence goes without meaningful consequence. But, I did like Rose the second time around, when I didn’t have my “who is this new person all of a sudden?!” hyper-judgement running in my head.

The coolest part of Act Two is how we get to know the Force better than we ever have. In previous films it’s talked about with either vague, yet powerful, philosophy…or it’s midi chlorians. Here, we get to see and explore the Force—and more than just the simplistic conflict of dark side vs. light side. We get an awesome perspective from old, cynical Luke that is really insightful—the Force doesn’t belong to one side, it belongs to everyone. The Jedi are just a religion surrounding the Force, they don’t own it. He criticizes the Jedi, all the mistakes they've made in the past. The hero of the original saga is CHALLENGING everything he once stood for and the foundation of the series itself. This is brave of Rian Johnson and Disney, and I applaud them for going here.

Also, I love this Luke. It feels absolutely like the evolution of the farmboy back on Tatooine, and how he would behave in this situation. Honestly, this was the most I’ve ever liked Luke Skywalker—he was never exactly the best part of the originals.

From a filmmaking standpoint, I really love how Johnson shot Rey and Kylo Ren having their Force connection talks. I love both of the actors, and I love that you can tell they’re talking to an actual person off screen (their eyes dart back and forth the way we do when we talk to someone…because, you know, we have two eyes). I’d bet money he had Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver on set doing the scenes as well. So simple in concept, accessible yet a bit challenging. Thumbs up.

At the end of Act Two, Rey searches the dark side of the Force for an answer and doesn’t receive it. This prompts her to make the deepest connection with Kylo yet and turn her back on Luke. This part plays as a bit weak for me, because I don’t think her need to understand who her parents are is established enough. It just doesn't seem like it's been earned to the point of having her abandon the last Jedi after a day of training. So the power of this moment is lost a bit…or rather comes off as “ok, yeah yeah, she changes her mind so the plot can move forward.”

Finn and Rose free the animals and escape, cool. Finn is a bit less naive now.

And here at the end of Act Two we see Luke have his darkest hour, as he races to the original Jedi temple to burn it all down…but hesitates. And then Yoda shows up to do it for him and is lovably his Yoda self. I was pretty distracted by “omg they put Yoda in this how do I feel about it” the first time around, so what he said didn’t really register. But this time it did. And I realized Yoda states what I believe is the theme of the film.

As a nice kind of couplet to “Do or do not, there is not try,” Yoda reminds Luke to pass on what he’s learned…especially failure.

“The greatest teacher, failure is.” — Yoda

As a thematic lesson in a film, I really like this. I think it is insightful and encouraging. It’s an anti-hyper-success mentality, it’s teaching the key to real strength. The truth we hope to learn when we are told a story.

And with this theme stated, we’re off to Act Three…where things get really good.

03_Act3_Rey Scream.png

Act Three

"Will Rey Turn Kylo Ren?"

Act Three: “Will Rey Turn Kylo Ren?”

(Arrival at Snoke’s ship to the Resistance landing on the salt planet.)

I think Johnson basically nails Act Three.

This is not the third act we’ve been conditioned to expect. In every other movie, the plan, after hitting a small bump in the road, would work. In the knick of time, Finn and Rose would get the shield down, something blows up, Poe barely saves the Resistance, and the Big Baddy survives predictably into the third film. But instead, our expectations are completely turned on their heads.

The choices and consequences the characters are faced with are legit and high stakes.

Will Rey turn Kylo? We’ve seen plenty of evidence that he’s conflicted, but also that he wants power.

Will Kylo turn Rey? She’s resisted so far…but she also sought answers in the dark side and has forsaken Luke.

I had no idea what the answer would be…and of course it’s ultimately not that simple, but the choices are believable. Johnson accomplishes the screenwriting challenge of “make the choice both surprising and inevitable.” And it leads to one of the coolest freaking light saber fights in the series.

(I also like that this film uses up the "Throne Room" parallel from Return of the Jedi, so that we don't need to have it in Episode IX. In general one of the things I love about this film is how it burns through the parallels and leaves room for a new kind of final chapter.)

Meanwhile…our characters fail, and fail really hard.

Rose and Finn’s plan to sabotage the tracking device is thwarted. Poe’s mutiny based on a long shot stalls Holdo’s plan to save everyone. Her plan was withheld for reasons I still don’t fully understand...but as Poe says at one point about his own scheme, “this plan is need to know, and she doesn’t.” Holdo thinks Poe dangerous, and he is, so maybe this is simply a lesson in how unfair and confusing it feels to lose one’s privilege. He doesn't need to know. The frustration is his and our punishment for wanting him to be right and go blow stuff up—deal with it.

All in all, our characters end up not only failing to achieve their goal (#theme), but make things WORSE…leading to the First Order discovering the cloaked escape ships and destroying most of what is left of the Resistance.

Those who survive only do so because of Holdo’s actions—an awesome moment that highlights the power of sound in cinematic storytelling and the importance of not seeing films in a theater with loud children.

There are some moments that falter in Act Three…like the convenience of Rose, Finn, and Phasma surviving the ship breaking up while everyone else is dead so that there can be a fight scene. But, you know. Gwendoline Christie is awesome, so.

Act Three ends with the Resistance heading toward their new base, alive but their numbers decimated. Rey has chosen not to join Kylo Ren. And this is kind of where Empire Strikes Back ends. The bad guys win, essentially. Luke chooses suicide over joining Vader and the dark side (but luckily falls into a convenient tube and is rescued), Han is in carbonite, and their fate is uncertain.

But The Last Jedi chooses not to end here, and rather decides to show our heroes learning from their mistakes in Act Four.


Act Four

"Will the REsistance Survive?"

Act Four: “Will the Resistance survive?”

(Arriving on the salt planet to almost final shot in the Millennium Falcon.)

Rey is essentially absent for most of Act Four. She’s made all her choices for this chapter. Now it’s about Kylo, Luke, and the Resistance.

Facing certain demise, our heroes do what they can, and are put in a situation where they make choices they never would have in the beginning of the film.

Poe, realizing they’re fighting a hopeless battle, orders a retreat (rather than charging forward like he did in the beginning). He’s starting to realize that there is more to being a leader than just fighting. He gets the Leia acknowledgment of growth, “What are you looking at me for? Follow him!” #theme

Finn, having chosen to run and save himself in both TFA and at the beginning of TLJ, is now willing to sacrifice his life for the Resistance (even if a bit foolish…but now he’s becoming the hero that Rose thought he was at the beginning). #theme. I think his arc is the weakest, which bums me out because I like Finn and want him to bring something meaningful to the saga. I think he did work in TFA, but ultimately didn’t add a ton to this one—fingers crossed for some good Rey/Finn character moments in IX.

And Luke returns to the Force and faces Kylo in order to buy time for the Resistance. Kylo rejects the call to the light that he’d felt earlier and gives in to anger 110%. And in doing so, fails. Though I have a feeling he may not learn from his example of antagonists choosing the wrong way to live.

By the end, our heroes have matured through learning from their failures, fulfilling the moral of the story.


Concluding Thoughts

Concluding thoughts

I think Acts Three and Four are great because the choices are difficult and there are real consequences to those choices.

Thematically, I do love the “democratization of the hero” talked about in articles going around, expressed beautifully in the brief epilogue with the children and the broom stick moment. The kids are a bit too Disney-fied for my taste, but it is still impactful.

This film snatches the Force from the jaws of the lone “chosen one” and gives it to the people.

From a saga standpoint, we get to watch The Rebellion be reborn. And it isn’t simply “let’s blow something up, get a victory, and in the next episode there will be a Rebellion formed”—this is the story of the actual formation. The spark igniting the fire.

We go on a kind of coming-of-age journey with the people who will very soon be leading The Rebellion, witnessing their struggles, sacrifices, and failures…and see them rise up and inspire others. Not by fighting what they hate, but by saving what they love.

And I am really interested by where they leave Rey’s character. She’s clearly experienced a lot, but perhaps hasn’t had the chance to really fail and really learn from those failures. What do the Jedi texts that she saved and brought with her mean? Did she not fully embrace the idea of letting go of the past, or is it a sign that she wants to aspire to the same ideals of the Jedi of old? Tune in next time!

For a film that needed to make money and sell toys, it has some really fantastic, progressive elements to it. I feel like it both aimed higher and hit the mark most of the time.

It honestly makes me emotional that the saga that I’ve loved since I was a kid has returned, and isn’t just being lazy. They’re moving the ball forward. Diversity and equality is put front and center and then not mentioned at all, normalizing it with one record-breaking release after another. With The Last Jedi, especially, it feels like Star Wars has really entered the 21st century, and is leading the way (in terms of big budget studio films...which are always a bit behind).

This, in my opinion can not be celebrated enough. Film is the most dominant cultural force of our time, Star Wars one of the most popular myths in the history of humanity. It is a touchstone, how we share ideas and prompt discussions. Rian Johnson embraced this responsibility whole-heartedly, and I love him for it.

The Force Awakens was familiar. I’m not on board with the “it’s a remake of Episode IV” talk…or rather I think that is a vast over-simplification. I think it had a near-impossible task and surpassed it with flying colors. But, it was a familiar story with familiar beats.

The Last Jedi wasn’t.

To sum it up, I’ll quote my friend Scott Marden, who I feel said it best when he noted simply, “With The Last Jedi, we actually got a new Star Wars film.”

It’s imperfect, it’s challenging, it’s fun, and it’s a little controversial.

It’s a new Star Wars film.


Episode IX

Looking forward, I’m a bit worried, for several reasons.

There is a freedom that comes with a middle episode. The first chapter has to establish a world, characters, stakes, and tell a story of beginnings. The last chapter has to provide resolution and a conclusion, tying off story threads and delivering spectacle three films in the making.

The middle chapter has the least requirements, so it is easier to be subversive. It's traditionally the only chapter that can leave the heroes worse off...which is one of the reasons the middle chapter is often the most compelling. Is Disney brave enough to turn the subversiveness up to 11 in Episode IX? Will they deliver a finale that is even more challenging to our norms than The Last Jedi?

Probably not? Especially given that J.J. is having to step in somewhat late in the game to save the film from Colin Trevorrow (Jurassic World director), and apparently Carrie Fisher was to play a big role in it.

And what effect will the "backlash" to this film have in shaping the next? I don't even get what the backlash is about, but will it cause safer choices to be made?

And what happens next?! Will it truly be the end of this saga? Do we want it to be? Do we want to see episodes X-XII, or will the new Rian Johnson trilogy take over? And will I be able to stop myself from making another Star Wars video about The Last Jedi??

"Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future." - Yoda

Michael Tucker


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FAQ: What Equipment and Software Do You Use?

Recording Equipment

  • Microphone | Rode M3 Microphone — This is a microphone that I used to use to record sound on the set of short films I made when I wanted close, intimate sound. It only has an XLR connection, so you need a recorder with XLR input. Which brings me to:
  • Recorder | Marantz PMD661 — This is a professional-grade handheld recorder that records to SD cards.
  • Microphone (Alternate affordable version!) |  Blue Yeti USB Microphone — I have used this microphone for recording podcasts, and do some temp VO for my videos with out—but often it sounds so good that I never re-record it. This is a great entry-level microphone for people who want good quality but don't want to spend too much money. The USB connection means you can plug it in to a computer or iPad directly, forgoing an (expensive) external recorder.
  • Wind screen | Dragonpad USA Pop Filter — To keep those "P's" in check!
  • Mic Stand | Samson MK-10 Microphone Boom Stand — Straightforward mic stand.


  • Computer | iMac 27", 2013 — I love my iMac. If you're going to be doing a lot of video editing, processor power is important, so I recommend always going for an i7 processor over an i5 if you can afford it. A big screen gives you a lot of real estate to navigate timelines. Speaking of...
  • Monitor | Dell UH2715H — I recently added a second monitor, and I don't know why I waited so long. I LOVE having a second monitor. It helps me be able to reference a screenplay or book without having to leave the app I'm currently working on, or lets me have Premiere and After Effects open and visible at the same time.
  • Speakers | M-Audio Studiophile AV40 — These are great, high-quality speakers that provide a good range of frequencies. Apparently there's a new version, the AV42, which I assume is even better.
  • Headphones | Beats Studio Wireless — I got these as a birthday gift recently, and they're fantastic. The noise cancelling is very good and helps me focus on my writing or my editing. Definitely recommend.
  • Mouse | Apple Magic Mouse 2 — I personally love the touch surface, because I like being able to quickly scroll left and right as well as up and down. Plus I use the gestures quite often.


  • Editing | Adobe Premiere Pro — It has its frustrating moments, but overall I love it. Very powerful, does everything I need.
  • Motion Graphics | Adobe After Effects — Also a very powerful piece of software, and there are an infinite number of tutorial videos out there to help you learn how to use it.
  • Audio | Adobe Audition — Noticing a trend? I love Adobe Audition because it lets me very quickly clean up the weird noises my mouth makes when I record voice over. I can right click on a clip in Premiere and open it in Audition, make some changes, save it, and it updates in Premiere.
  • Images | Adobe Photoshop — What I use to create the thumbnails for the videos


  • Writing Device | iPad Pro 9.7" (new one coming out soon) — I LOVE my iPad. I do almost my writing on the iPad. I like the iOS environment, I find it less distracting than writing on a computer. I also read all the scripts on my iPad, which I can markup using...
  • Stylus | Apple Pencil — I also LOVE the Apple Pencil. I can write and take notes as if writing on a piece of paper. It's not perfect, but it's the closest thing to it.
  • Keyboard | Apple Keyboard Case — I really like having a keyboard attached to my iPad at all times, so if I want to go write somewhere outside my apartment it's easy to carry around.
  • Apps | Notability, iA Writer — These are the two I use the most. Highly recommend.

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