“When successful New York ad executive Howard Inlet (Will Smith) suffers a personal tragedy and retreats from life, his friends devise a drastic plan to reach him before he loses everything. This thought-provoking drama explores how even the deepest loss can reveal moments of beauty, and how the constants of love, time and death interlock in a life fully lived.”
Collateral Beauty is the story of the worst kind of tragedy, the loss of a child, and the toll it takes on Howard Inlet’s life, both personal and professional. As he spends more and more time coasting through life afterwards, his life unravels, losing his wife, as well as his passion for his work. Instead of maintaining important relationships vital to the success of his company, Howard spends every day setting up elaborate domino monstrosities as a metaphor for his life crashing down around him. His business partners and long-time friends Whit (Edward Norton), Claire (Kate Winslet) and Simon (Michael Peña) have no choice but to sit and watch their company implode with lack of leadership that relies solely on his business acumen. When an offer to buy out the company presents itself that will make them all wealthy and allow everyone to keep their jobs, they desperately try to get Howard to agree to sell, with no success.
The group of so-called friends then decide to hire a private investigator to follow him around, rummaging through his mail to find he has only mailed three letters since the death of his daughter. The intended recipients are Death, Time and Love. Apparently giving up on consoling Howard, Whit devises what I can only conceive to be a diabolical plan to hire actors to play these parts, making it look like they are the embodiments of Death, Time and Love, and that only Howard can see them. Like some twisted form of A Christmas Carol or It’s a Wonderful Life, they are going to use these actors to make Howard look insane so they can take control of his company and sell it out from under him.
The actors they get to play these roles, Helen Mirren, Keira Knightley and Jacob Latimore, give amazing performances for Howard, making him believe he is being stalked by these entities. Predictably as well, they each have a connection to the respective company head that is in contact with them, teaching them a lesson in the trait they are portraying. Without steering dangerously close to spoiler territory, I can’t go much further, as there are several plot devices used that will make you re-examine the entire film you just watched. Although these devices seem like a cheap ploy to invoke emotion, on a certain level, and to an average movie-goer I believe they work for the type of story this is striving to be, a fable.
Expectations are a double-edge sword most times, usually ending up in disappointment if they are too high. On a rare occasion, they can work the opposite; thanks to critic reviews before viewing this film I had no expectations whatsoever, except that I was expecting something terrible and I’d be moaning and groaning the entire way through. I’m thankful to say that I wasn’t, and it wasn’t for lack of trying. I did my best to analyze and criticize every nuance of this film and although there are things that I didn’t like about the movie, and things that I found to be predictable, equally there are things that weren’t. As an audience member, you have a role in accepting the story you are being told. If you accept the fact that this is a fable, things you learn at the end will wash clean the problems you may have had with the film from the start.
One undeniably great thing about the film is the cast. With an incredible group of actors, this never feels like one person is stealing the show, and egos don’t get in the way. It is a nice ensemble piece, with Will Smith giving an amazing performance, which does take some time to warm up, but toward the end really impresses.
Collateral Beauty is presented in 1080p High Definition Widescreen 2.4:1. There are no issues with the transfer. Colors are vibrant, especially with the New York landscape during Christmas.
The audio is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Most of the sound will be coming through the center channel with a good balance between the surrounds which deliver a very moving score. For a drama, I was consistently impressed with the use and levels of the surrounds and the ability to still hear the dialogue clearly.
Only one special feature on this disc, which includes interviews with most of the actors involved, as well as the writer and director who talk about their passion for bringing this film to screen.
- A Modern Fable: Discovering Collateral Beauty – Join the cast and crew as they reveal how they were inspired to look at their own lives in a new light.
Collateral Beauty deals with some harsh issues that many don’t want to even contemplate. Although judged very harshly by critics, this is a prime example of viewing yourself to form an opinion, free of expectations. Questionable as some of the devices and plot points seem, the emotion in the film is undeniable. Our love of film doesn’t come from the logical, real-life sense they make, it comes from how they make us feel. Although it isn’t as poignant as films such as It’s a Wonderful Life, Collateral Beauty can be beautiful in its own way.