Review: Vantage Point
Plot: At a terrorism summit in Spain, an assassination attempt is made on U.S. President Ashton (William Hurt). Eight strangers, including two secret service agents (Dennis Quaid & Matthew Fox), an American tourist (Forest Whitaker) & a TV news producer (Sigourney Weaver) are caught up in the aftermath of the attack.
Review: Watching VANTAGE POINT is like watching an entire season of 24 crammed into one ninety minute film. Basically, it's a bit of a mess- albeit a very entertaining mess.
The film unfolds, RASHOMON-style, from the perspective of eight different characters. Basically we get the same five minutes of film eight times, but each time we see it differently. This device works well enough during the first thirty minutes of the film- but by the time we get to flashback number four the whole thing starts to get old- FAST. Luckily, the device is dropped in the final thirty minutes- which is basically one long (awesome) chase scene.
My big problem with the whole multiple perspective approach is that too many extraneous characters are involved. This is especially true of Sigourney Weaver's producer character- who only exists as a plot device, and disappears completely mid way though the film. Another totally unnecessary character is the undercover policeman played by Eduardo Noriega- who basically serves no point whatsoever in the film, and should have been left on the cutting room floor.
These flaws aside- there's still a lot to enjoy in VANTAGE POINT. For me, the best thing about the film is the top notch ensemble cast, which is led by Dennis Quaid, in a very Jack Bauer-ish role, as the head of the president's security detail. Quaid is one of those actors that's been around forever and is always reliable. He gets the bulk of the screen time, and gets to engage in all kinds of heroics during the last thirty minutes of the film. This is a good role for Quaid, and despite being middle aged- he handles the action scenes very well. Matthew Fox (JACK!) of LOST fame is on hand as Quaid's protege. While I love Fox on LOST- I think he was terribly miscast in this role- which is especially apparent after a really unconvincing plot twist in the third act.
Also noteworthy is Forest Whitaker, fresh off his Oscar win for THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND. Whitaker brings a lot of talent to his thinly written role. He plays an American tourist who gets the assassination attempt on tape, and spends the rest of the film trying to protect a young girl who, in the aftermath of the attack, is separated from her mother. Whitaker is one of those actors who's always worth watching, and he turns what could have been a thankless role into something memorable.
One of my favorite actors, William Hurt, is also on board as the U.S. president, and although he doesn't get a heck of a lot to do, he makes a very convincing president. He also has a great scene with Bruce McGill, who's one of those character actors who's name may not be familiar, but is easily recognizable for the dozens of films he's been in. Hurt and McGill play off each other very well, and I wish they had more scenes together.
Other than the cast- the most praiseworthy thing about the film is the kinetic editing- courtesy of Stuart Baird, who's cut some of the biggest action films of the last twenty years (including the original 1978 SUPERMAN, and CASINO ROYALE). Baird has really outdone himself on this film. He maintains a quick pace, but never goes over the top- which is a trap many editors fall into these days when working on big action films.
VANTAGE POINT is also the feature debut of veteran TV director Pete Travis. This is definitely a solid first film for Travis. While I definitely had a few issues with the movie- overall it was a very entertaining, fast paced, action flick. The RASHOMON multiple narrative structure doesn't always work, but one has to at least give the filmmakers points for trying something different.
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