REVIEW: Vantage Point [2008]

“American arrogance”

I love the correlation between the Arab’s comment of American arrogance making us think we are always one step ahead of the world and the fact that this film falls into the same exact trap. I understand the concept of multiple viewpoints on the proceedings, as well as the rewinding to show us those differences, however, if you are going to do it, only show us what we missed the first time. Not to spoil anything, the sequence of a character throwing a bomb underneath the presidential podium is shown four times as it is seen by four people…are you kidding? We know the person did it the first time, gloss over it and get to what we DON’T know. A gimmick can work if it is utilized to full effect. However, I can’t really complain about that because the entire concept of the film is false advertising. Eight views, one truth? Not really. More like eight people with plot progression storylines that add up to the one truth. These people aren’t seeing different things and coming up with different conclusions, they are only giving us the full picture rather than incomplete snippets. The tricks involved are great, in theory, but it seems that the filmmakers needed a lot of padding for the short script and decided hiding information and/or cutting away when the truth is apparent in order to show it later would be a more fun way to tell the tale.

My real problem is the fact that we as an audience are played with at every moment. We are teased with answers and made to sit through a new character’s account that holds 75% old information with only 25% new before we are actually given what we should have received twenty minutes ago. Where is the cream filling? Vantage Point ends up being all flash with no center to hold it together. It is a real shame because the plot and conspiracy going on are well thought out and planned. Maybe if it was a straightforward short film it would have been great, but as a feature, recycling footage and manipulating what’s onscreen in order to extend the runtime, it just plain fails. Also, the ending is real corny, clichéd, and obvious.

I wonder how much of its trouble comes from a very extended cutting period. I saw the first trailer for this film in June 07 and it only came out yesterday at the end of February 08. Something is fishy there. Maybe they cut all the backstory, because honestly, there is absolutely none on display. We are never told why all this is happening; why people’s allegiances have been changed; why a hero secret service man is “punishing himself” for what he did, (considering we only know he took a bullet for the President, we have to assume he did something after to make it appear that he might step out of the line of fire the second time); or why the orchestrator of it all is seemingly working on his own. The movie shows us just enough to get by and then throws a new twist so that we forget we haven’t really been told anything. I guess the fact that America and Arab nations are at war and trying to come to a peace accord is enough background for us to believe this would all happen so quickly without any other nation’s support.

I can’t disregard the work completely, though, because this cast is amazing. How they got everyone involved, I have no idea. Dennis Quaid does his usual stern face of contemplation, but he plays a secret service agent always on the job, so it is acceptable. Matthew Fox is a lot of fun especially later on when he lets loose a bit and has some fun. Forest Whitaker is probably the best thing the movie has going for it and shows that he can elevate any role given to him. He is pitch perfect with every emotion he is made to elicit after the tragedies that unfold in front of him. There are so many other people that it would be tough to get to them all, but mention for Edgar Ramirez and Saïd Taghmaoui (both desperately underused in Hollywood) and new face Eduardo Noriega needs to be made.

In the end, Vantage Point becomes a by the numbers blockbuster that takes its possibly intelligent plot and dumbs it down completely in order to be served up to the lowest common denominator of the American public. Arrogance becomes the word of the moment as Hollywood has become so much so that they decide they know what’s best for the country, churning out mindless action, brainwashing society into feeling that any movie that asks for thought is just boring. With a smaller budget, a more unique vision behind the camera, and the guts to let some carnage and desperation be shown, this might have been great. Instead we are shown a story that flips the supposed winner and loser roles. Where the terrorists think of American arrogance, it ends up being their own egos that ruins them. They think they have beaten democracy with their guard down, but in actuality they just turned a blind eye to the fact that one man could single-handedly have the fortitude to take down an entire cell by himself while his fellow agents think he is crazy, and a little friendly coincidence that every person he runs into has video footage of the exact moments necessary to put the puzzle together. Man those terrorists can be so stupid.

Vantage Point 4/10 | ★ ½

[1] Secret Service Agents Holden (Richard T. Jones, left) and Thomas Barnes (Dennis Quaid, right) assist a fellow agent in Columbia Pictures’ Vantage Point. The film is directed by Pete Travis, written by Barry L. Levy, and produced by Neal H. Moritz. In theaters February 22, 2008. Photo credit: Daniel Daza. © 2008 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. and GH Three LLC All rights reserved.
[2] Forest Whitaker plays Howard Lewis, an American tourist in Spain, in Columbia Pictures’ Vantage Point. The film is directed by Pete Travis, written by Barry L. Levy, and produced by Neal H. Moritz. In theaters February 22, 2008. Photo credit: Daniel Daza. © 2008 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. and GH Three LLC All rights reserved.


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