Eye For Film >> Movies >> Vantage Point (2008) Film Review
A device in search of a story, Vantage Point takes a mediocre assassination plot (by Barry Levy), adds an untested but inaugurally impressive director (Pete Travis) and some fading stars (William Hurt, Dennis Quaid), then stirs vigorously with dynamite and destruction. Confused? Don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of chances to catch up: by the time you leave the theater you’ll have seen more or less the whole movie more than once - five times, to be exact.
The film’s ultimate punishment, should you care to accept it, is to withhold whodunnit - and why - until the final minutes, by which time you’ll be too pulverized to care. Set in Spain (aka Mexico City) at a summit to discuss the global war on terror, the movie naturally opens with a terrorist attack as the President of the United States (William Hurt) is gunned down the moment he ventures onstage. In rapid succession, two bombs go off with the usual payload of collateral damage and human chaos, and we’re off on a multi-viewpoint journey whose directorial cleverness (Travis is a big talent trapped in a small-minded screenplay) is masked by repetition and confusion.
As a testy cable-news director, Sigourney Weaver supplies the initial perspective as she wrangles with a reporter (Zoe Saldana) who wants to reveal the anti-US sentiment among the crowd. “We’re here for the summit, not the sideshow,” she barks, seconds before that sentiment erupts. Rewind to 23 minutes earlier -complete with eye-searing reverse-imaging - and we join Dennis Quaid’s jumpy Secret Service agent, recently returned to duty after being wounded while saving his president from yet another assassination attempt. This leader’s approval ratings must be lower than Hillary Clinton’s campaign tactics.
Again with the rewind (which becomes increasingly annoying/amusing with each repetition), and here’s happy tourist Forest Whitaker, strobing the crowd with his camcorder and bonding with the requisite cute-kid-who’s-about-to-be-placed-in-the-path-of-a-runaway-truck. Next up is a lovestruck local cop (Eduardo Noriega) who suspects his honey (an intriguing Ayelet Zurer) may be doing more than passing the time of day with that muscled commando hiding in the shadows. Finally, thankfully, we follow the President himself and eventually the terrorists, by which point we’re too exhausted to appreciate the money shot: a car chase that causes almost as much damage as the bombs.
Part throwback, part post-9/11 bandwagoner, Vantage Point strains for the jittery paranoia of political thrillers like Roger Donaldson’s Cold War gem, No Way Out. But the film’s busyness blankets everything in noise and confusion: Spanish cop or terrorist? President or double? Loyal bodyguard or murderous traitor? And though most of the performances are serviceable enough for characters playing second fiddle to special effects, Lost’s Mathew Fox is disastrously bland in a role that requires at least a modicum of charisma. Faring even worse is poor Whitaker (more mobile than at any time since Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai), forced to dash all over town peering through his viewfinder with his one good eye while its less reliable neighbour scans the crowd for children in jeopardy.
Whitaker’s death grip on his camcorder - whose vertiginous images we’re allowed to share - is ultimately as disturbing as that of the doomed protagonists of Cloverfield and Diary Of The Dead, suggesting that our dependence on technology has reached psychologically troubling levels. As terrorists text on their Blackberrys and bodyguards cling to their cell phones (whose earpieces stay put in the midst of vehicular carnage), the devices seem less like tools than emotional barriers - runes scattered in the path of monsters.
Using a combination of tight closeups and high, wide-angled shots, the director displays the same flair for wreckage and mayhem that distinguished his 2004 TV movie about an IRA bombing, Omagh. In Vantage Point, however, it’s not the bombs we remember but Quaid, his twitchy fury injecting an energy and humanity the film - and the audience - sorely needs.Reviewed on: 25 Feb 2008