“Be careful what you wish for” is a notion that applies just as well to film as it does elsewhere. If you choose to employ a bold and complicated storytelling device such as showing the same event from the time and perspective of multiple individuals, it will build excitement and anticipation for a satisfying climactic conclusion. The only problem is, if that plan works, you’re going to want to deliver when it counts– in the end.
“Vantage Point” is at times clever and surprising, but it’s Achilles heel is that it has a collection of solid beginnings and middles and that’s it. When all its stories converge in the final minutes, it’s nothing shy of anticlimactic.
Director Pete Travis makes the jump from TV to feature films with “Vantage Point.” The film tells the story of an assassination attempt and multiple bombings at a world summit on terrorism held in Spain. It is told in repetitive succession from the unique point of view of a secret service agent (Dennis Quaid), a president (William Hurt), a tourist (Forrest Whitaker), a news director (Sigourney Weaver), the plot mastermind (Säid Taghmaoui), and a Spanish police officer (Eduardo Noriega). As each character’s perspective is told, new details emerge to tell the broader story of the events and who’s fooling who.
The principle cast also includes Matthew Fox (“Lost”) and Zoe Saldana (“Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl”) as well as numerous brief appearances by familiar supporting faces James LeGros (“Point Break”), Bruce McGill (“Elizabethtown”) and Richard T. Jones (“Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles”).
The film may have been more effective had it not gone for such large-scale geopolitical themes. The presidential aspects of the story seem rushed and hard to believe, largely because the film doesn’t have time to re-establish the presidential world. As a result we rely on previous conceptions, like that of “The West Wing,” to which many of the elements of this story do not conform. Similarly, the terrorism theme is tiring. So many filmmakers have already stepped up to the plate and dealt out stories of either a morally complex or entertaining nature, or both. “Vantage Point” seems to be primarily about entertainment, and thus would have benefitted from isolating the events, rather than fluttering around the edges of a very real global issue.
I had high hopes for the film after the midpoint, when an unexpected twist elevates the level of intrigue and suspense. The fact is, this is an interesting way to tell a story and for the most part, it works. In spite of the deflating wrap-ups in the final minutes, “Vantage Point” gets extra marks for a high degree of difficulty. It’s much easier to look past a movies’ flaws when we as an audience perceive the palpable effort that went into a film in hopes of entertaining and thrilling us.
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