I was really excited for Vantage Point. I really was. The movie has a great cast, an exciting story, plenty of action and a presidential assassination. Even though the trailer blew every twist in the movie, I was still expecting a wild thrill ride and, for the most part, I got that. Still, by the time the movie ends, you're left with a feeling that everything was just a bit too convenient, too controlled and too predictable.
Ultimately, Vantage Point fails to live up to its potential. The movie takes a look at several different people's perspectives revolving around a single event, the assassination of the President of the United States. If you've seen any of the marketing for the film, you know that there is more to the story than that, but for simplicity's sake, the President gets shot and several bystanders, some good and some bad, witness the events. Through the compilation of their vantage points, we're supposed to get the full picture of what is happening.
The idea is interesting in concept, except that there are a few problems with the execution. For one, the movie rewinds multiple times to the point of the assassination to show us what happens from someone else's perspective. This is all fine and good, but after director Pete Travis does this a few times, it begins to get old really quickly. The rewind process kills the pacing of the film; had the picture remained linear, Vantage Point could have been a non-stop thrill ride; as is, it often feels disjointed.
Secondly, even after all the perspectives are shown, questions still remain. There's that one guy who appears to be a cop, turns out to be a terrorist, but seems to want to prevent the situation from happening as to suggest that he's actually a good guy, and then... well, I'm not quite sure what the point of his character was. Secondly, why does the Secret Service agent turn bad? What's his motive. This is a pretty big twist, but it is never explained. There are a few other plot holes in the movie that really take away from the effectiveness of the story.
Third, the ending is just silly. Travis directs a pretty good car chase to cap off the picture, but what happens at the end of the car chase is just ludicrously stupid. Without giving too much away (be warned of possible spoilers), a car chase ensues that starts from the point of the assassination, goes all over town for a long stretch of time, and then conveniently ends up back where everything started. Not only does this not make any sense, but it is clear that Travis and screenwriter Barry Levy did this for the sole purpose to bring to a close the other storylines that have been taking place. All of the plot lines and characters end up at the exact same place at the exact same time, and the convenient nature of it all is laughably bad.
Other than some plot holes and questionable logic, though, Vantage Point is a fast-paced thriller with some quality action, explosions and so on and so forth. Those looking for mindless entertainment should look no further, but if you're someone who tends to pick movies apart, be warned. Vantage Point is a fun movie, but it isn't nearly as smart as the creators intended it to be.
Also, shame on the marketing department for revealing one of the big twists in the previews.
Review by Robert Bell (C-)
Cold War paranoia meets a mishmash of modern technology and perspectives in Vantage Point, the latest of the ever increasing presidential assassination genre. Despite the unique Rashomon multi-perspective narrative, and some well choreographed car chase sequences, this film is a dud. The laughably bad script takes itself way too seriously, while offering little insight on the subject matter and its place in a terrorism-fearing world.
The initial perspective is seen through the eyes of a news crew led by a headstrong television producer (Sigourney Weaver). They are providing coverage of a peace summit designed to discuss and prevent terrorism in a small Spanish plaza. Inevitably the president of the United States is shot, followed by the bombing of the crowded square. Just as the tension builds, the film stops; rewinds; and starts again from another perspective. This time from the perspective presidential body guards (Matthew Fox and Dennis Quaid).
Every few minutes another perspective is offered to the audience. Each viewpoint attempts to reveal additional plot points and character insights to an increasingly ludicrous degree. While the gimmick is interesting, it is also rather annoying in its interruption of an already flawed narrative flow.
The film is rife with contrivance, unexplained character arcs, bizarre zooms, hokey dialogue, and a denouement that would make Paul Haggis blush. The freshman script from Barry Levy provides more unintentional laughs than cognitive process. As the film propels itself forward with varying intermingling storylines the contrivance grows exponentially. Scenes involving a love-betrayed Spanish police officer (Eduardo Noriega), Forest Whitaker and a little girl, and the Dennis Quaid story (who based on the abuse he takes in this film must have an endo-skeleton made of terminator metal), are all particularly clichéd. There are stoic one-liners and pathetic character explanations that would make even the most ignorant viewer question Levy’s writing abilities.
Thankfully the propulsive, often frenetic, direction of television vet Pete Travis keeps the film tolerable on at least a visceral level. The pacing is solid and the car scenes are highly entertaining; albeit improbable. That said, the direction really doesn’t push itself beyond that of a big budget television series and the murky disjointed indication of an impending "rewind" was more amusing than affecting. It is however, better than the script.
The performances are uniformly wooden due mostly to the aforementioned lack of characterization. Dennis Quaid, Forest Whitaker, Eduardo Noriega, and Matthew Fox all turn in unremarkable performances and deliver their dialogue with a conviction that shows that even they know they don’t have much to work with. Sigourney Weaver on the other hand actually elevates her stereotypical domineering producer role beyond the page. It’s a shame that more screen time wasn’t given to her character.
Vantage Point should fill at least part of the void left by the inevitable delay in the increasingly ludicrous Jack Bauer odyssey. It should otherwise be ignored. This is a film that tries desperately to cash in a concept without having it fully realized.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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