- Rated R
- Buy the DVD
All photos © Sony Pictures
Reviewed by David Medsker
ou have to give the makers of “Vantage Point” credit for one thing: what the movie lacks in plausibility, it makes up for with raw enthusiasm. They think their movie is awesome – well, actually, they probably know it’s not awesome, since they’ve put off releasing it for over a year – but they sure do pull out all the stops to deliver a bullet-riddled, car chase-happy whodunit, “Rashomon”-style. How much you enjoy it depends on how much you like watching the same scene five times in a row. Much like last year’s flashback extravaganza, “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead,” each flashback reveals new information, but there is little suspense attached to any of it. Thank God we didn’t have to suffer through Philip Seymour Hoffman’s bare ass a second time.
The movie, set in Spain, covers the events surrounding US President Ashton (William Hurt) signing a historic peace accord between the United States and Islamic countries. Our point of view is the production truck of an American cable news channel, with the no-nonsense Rex Brooks (Sigourney Weaver) directing traffic and managing the ego of her on-location correspondent. Rex is surprised to see Secret Service agent Thomas Barnes (Dennis Quaid) on detail, as he has lain low in the year since he literally took a bullet for Ashton. Ashton steps up to the podium after being introduced by the Spanish mayor, and is immediately shot twice in the chest. Rex tries to make sense of the chaos as Secret Service ushers the President into an ambulance, but soon loses complete control when the podium the President was standing on is blown sky high.
Now for the fun part: we then see these same events replayed three more times. First we get the perspective of Barnes, then from the eyes of local cop Enrique (Eduardo Noriega), and finally from the view of camcorder-happy American tourist Howard Lewis (Forest Whitaker). Each replay unveils a new, valuable piece of information, at which point the movie rewinds the clock once more but changes location…and replays the events at the new location one more time before finally moving forward.
I’ve never seen “Rashomon” but I’m well aware of its legacy, and to compare this to “Rashomon” seems patently unfair. There are no conflicting accounts of the events in the movie; there are only characters with conflicting goals, which leaves the viewer with very little to digest in the way of story. Indeed, the events of “Vantage Point” cover approximately 30 minutes in real time, but it will take you 90 minutes to watch them. There isn’t a story written that turns out better when someone takes three times as long to tell it.
Ah, but how about that explosion shot? Truth be told, it’s dazzling, so there is no wonder why director Pete Travis, making his feature film debut, shows it over and over. Even the car chase at the end is nifty in a “Bourne Identity” sort of way (but also a tad ridiculous), though try not to laugh when the camera keeps closing in on Quaid’s menacing glower. Weaver disappears after the first rewind, and Whitaker is stuck with the thankless role of concerned family man in a terrorist thriller. Lastly, the way everything comes together is, well, absurd – all of the day’s events are put into motion using the most awesome cell phone you’ve ever seen – but damned if the filmmakers don’t go balls out anyway. You have to admire their dedication, even if the execution was severely flawed.
There may be a competent “rewind thriller” to be made, but it will have to involve more than showing the same scenes over and over from different angles. Had “Vantage Point” switched locations more than once, it might have had something. As it is, the movie hangs itself before it gets interesting.
Single-Disc DVD Review:
The bonus features to “Vantage Point” contain one of the longest cast & crew interview featurettes ever made. We didn’t time it, but we’re guessing that it was roughly 40 minutes long, which is about twice as long as it needed to be. (It also uses a fair amount of grainy hand-held camera footage during the interviews, which is completely unnecessary.) The other cast & crew featurette, which focuses solely on the assassination part of the plot, is shorter and therefore better. Director Pete Travis also provides an audio commentary, as well as a supposed outtake involving a character that was cut out in editing.