A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Vantage Point

February 17, 2011

Vantage Point

I bought this movie because I was intrigued by the concept. It’s a movie with a nifty hook, and I wanted to see how the film makers handled it. The idea behind the movie is that it is a sort of action/thriller/mystery about an attempted assassination of the President of the United States. The twist is that instead of just showing us the events taking place the movie follows several characters through the same events. We get to see the story several times. Each time we see the same things happening but from a slightly different point of view, and we learn a little bit more about what’s actually going on.

Our cast of characters include a grizzled and dour Secret Service officer who has only just been reinstated one year after he took a bullet for the President, a wide-eyed tourist with a hend held video camera, a Spanish police officer, a television news director, a young girl, a group of terrorists, and the President himself. The whole concept of the movie is that it’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it adventure story full of plot twists and strange co-incidences. There are car chases, foot chases, explosions and many, many shootings (including of course the President.)

Unfortunately the movie can’t quite keep up with the potential of its concept. For one thing there’s the need to have a cool new twist with each subsequent re-play of the major events. At the start there are a number of mysteries set up for which you know the answers will be revealed in later go-rounds. Why, for example, do the Secret Service members lose contact with their control center? What was the other explosion before the big one where the stage erupted? What did Secret Service member Barnes see which made him race off at the end of the second section? But twist after twist gets piled on to the plot and it begins to feel pretty badly tangled.

Another problem is that the timing of events feels wrong on subsequent viewings. Things which happen in pretty close sequence from one perspective have long conversations wedged in between them when seen from a different view point. I suppose this could be a kind of cool commentary on the perception of time and how what seems like instants for one person seems like ages to another, but it doesn’t actually feel like that. It just feels off, because you’re waiting for something to happen because you saw it happen in an earlier segment and it doesn’t happen when you expect it to. The movie begins to feel like a jigsaw puzzle put together wrong. The pieces don’t quite fit but they are being wedged into place and pounded in so that they are MADE to fit.

Yet another problem is the geography of events in the movie. By necessity all the main characters have to end up in the same place by the end for the big climax, because that’s the sort of movie this is, but it doesn’t just feel forced to have them all arrive at the same point; it feels absolutely absurd. We’re told that the overpass where everything concludes is seven blocks from the plaza where the shooting first took place. Two characters arrive there after a lengthy foot chase. Three more arrive after a spectacular car chase that goes on for at least fifteen minutes. Several more are in an ambulance which appears to be going in pretty much a straight line. Most absurdly of all there’s a lost five year old girl who simply wanders the seven blocks in question looking for her mother – in the same time it took the two other characters to get there running full tilt. It’s when little Anna shows up there that I simply found myself giving up on the movie. I can see that it’s trying really hard to be clever, bringing all these different people together through a series of unbelievable co-incidences, but it actually comes off feeling kind of silly.

My problem is that I really want to like this movie. It has an astonishing cast of great actors all doing their best to sell the drama. Sigourney Weaver, Zoe Saldana, William Hurt, Dennis Quaid, Forest Whitaker… these are all A-list stars. It has a great concept which brings me in and makes me curious to see just what exactly is going on. If it had been done right it would have been the kind of movie you have to watch again to catch all the clues and understand how everything fits together. As it is, though, it doesn’t fit together. I don’t need to see it again to know that.

The unbelievably complicated terrorist plot at the heart of the movie makes no sense. Several people involved in the plot have as little idea what’s going on as we the viewers do. The tourist and little girl seem almost thrown in at the last minute and aren’t part of the story at all. The action is fun and the car chase is really spectacular (it made me want to watch Ronin) but it’s so eye-rollingly implausible that it loses its impact. If this were just a straight up action movie about the unstoppable Secret Service agent on a mission (which is what the latter half of the movie is) I would have been able to hand-wave the implausibility, but it pitches itself as a tense serious drama and just doesn’t deliver. There could be a really cool movie that used this concept of different points of view (sort of Rashamon but with more political intrigue and less mystery) but this movie is not it.

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February 17, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , ,

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