Vantage Point (2008) / Thriller-Action
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for violence, disturbing images and language
Running Time: 90 min.
Cast: Dennis Quaid, Forest Whitaker, Matthew Fox, Eduardo Noriega, William Hurt, Ayelet Zurer, Edgar Ramirez, Sigourney Weaver, Said Taghmaoui, Richard T. Jones, Bruce McGill, Zoe Saldana, James LeGros, Alicia Jaziz Zapien
Director: Pete Travis
Screenplay: Barry L. Levy
Review published March 29, 2008
Set in Salamanca, Spain, Vantage Point is a gimmicky, Rashomon-like thriller that gives us several views from different people for the brief period just before and just after the shooting of the US President (Hurt, Mr. Brooks) just before he is to deliver a speech at a peace summit to the crowd there, some of them protesting angrily. Not only is the president shot, but the area is bombed while suspects flee and no one is sure just what's going on in the confusion. After we see each character's perspective, we rewind to see another, getting a little more pieces of the puzzle as to who is behind the events, and why.
How much one can enjoy Vantage Point may largely depend on the patience one has for the fact that over half of the film is essentially the same set of events played out from different perspectives. There is a certain tedium factor if you can guess where the film is going, especially when the contrivances begin to take hold (decoy presidents and characters that always seem to run into one another are just two of the most flagrant). Camera crews always seem to be focusing on things they would never do in real life, such as the secret service men or other banal developments that conveniently figure into the plot later. On the plus side, when the action takes hold, TV director Pete Travis (Omagh, Henry VIII) finds his footing as a director, as there are foot chases and car crashes that actually do manage to generate some moments of electricity.
However, the plot structure, which is the film's biggest selling point, doesn't quite hold up. The implausibility factor stacks higher and higher with each passing flashback, as the script by first-timer Barry Levy has no other point of view except to try to stay one step ahead of the audience until the finish line. Although the titillation factor might be enough for some viewers to think it passable for an action-thriller, especially those that rent it on a kick-back evening, for those who expect more out of a stellar cast, it's hard not to feel a little disappointed.
Vantage Point, with at least one good car chase and a handful of compelling moments, is a close call in terms of a recommendation, but it really depends on what you're expectations are going in. As a political thriller, it's a bit empty, but it does deliver excitement in spurts so long as you're not analyzing it to any degree as the events play out. Unfortunately, the gimmickry just doesn't tantalize enough to cover up the glaring weaknesses, and while I can't say that the film is uninteresting, the possibilities of where the film could have gone play far better in your mind than they do on the screen.
©2008 Vince Leo