Pete Travis is new to the actual film world but he's cut his teeth on some television serials, and here he has teamed up with new boy on the block writer Barry Levy. Like Travis, Levy has some credits in the television world, mainly on the production front but this is his first foray into writing. So from the get go it really doesn't seem like a good starting point. On the plus side Travis managed to secure the services of Dennis Quaid (who's not a naturally gifted actor but neither is he bottom rung), Sigourney Weaver (who obviously needs no introduction here) and other new kid on the block Matthew Fox. Fox most will know from J J Abrams often surreal Lost and he's certainly more than adequate in that leadership role. So where does Vantage Point take us?
The film opens when the President of the United States (William Hurt) attends a terrorism conference in Spain, it's out in the open, the crowds are gathering, the secret service agents are on the rooftops surveying the area. On leaving his limousine the President is guided to the podium by his body guards; agents Thomas Barnes (Dennis Quaid) and Kent Taylor (Matthew Fox). After a brief introduction from the mayor President Ashton is about to give his comments; at that point in time he is gunned down by an unknown assailant from a window overlooking the plaza.
In the confusion which follows the President is rushed away, the crowd panic and depart in all directions, the secret service kick into gear arresting all and sundry. Only moments later an explosion can be heard from another part of the city; then without warning the podium explodes in a ball of flame. Debris and people fall, the agents slowly recover and agents Barnes and Taylor know they only have a short period of time to discover who the perpetrator(s) are.
Vantage Point opens in much the same way as Doug Liman's Bourne Identity, fast editing and camera zooms as the Spanish city is surveyed. At that point in time I was expecting something very similar; very stylish and very derivative of other works. In the end though it doesn't quite work out that way and is an enjoyable thriller in its own right. It has its own angle which makes this at first seem compelling viewing; the premise is that people around the President and people in the crowd have their own view on what actually happened during those chaotic moments, some see one thing, others see another; it's the job of the agents to piece these pieces of the jigsaw together to bring out the full picture.
These pieces are told from the respective eyes of all the people who ultimately become involved in some large or small way with this assassination. Time resets itself back to high noon, the time the President's motorcade is en route to the plaza. From then the next 23 minutes are shown again, from another participants eyes. It is these different views, these different vantage points of the title, which become intriguing and it is this which adds to the tension, allows the viewer to almost become part of the movie as the viewer is exposed to much the same information as the agents so the viewer themselves sit and try and piece this plot together. During these rewinds more and more characters are introduced and all are in some way connected by those ever elusive 7 degrees, it's directed and paced well enough to keep your attention and to keep you on your toes sufficiently as you come to realise that scenes earlier during which you had made your mind up as to what was happening or who was in which camp suddenly are seen with new eyes and you have to constantly re-evaluate your perception of events.
At some point throughout the film though this eventually becomes a little grating and you wonder if this is all you are going to get. At this point though the film really starts coming out of left field and introduces another aspect to its character that again makes you sit up and take notice. This is a credit to the direction and structure of Vantage Point; Barry Levy knew this new injection would be required at that precise point in the film, as such you can only give him credit where credit is due. Unfortunately though he doesn't seem to be able to carry this towards the end; the start and middle sections of the film are an enjoyable truly engaging watch but ultimately it runs out of steam and you do know where it is going and how it will ultimately end. This is a little of a let down because it reverts back to the standard Hollywood structure and is perhaps a little injustice to what the film has presented before.
As mentioned direction is tight and the initial writing does make you sit up and take notice. Cinematography is suitable for the style of the film and the editing is not as frantic as say Bourne Identity which I had half expected, but certainly propels the film forward at a good rate of knots. There's an excellent if somewhat ludicrous car chase scene down the narrow alleys of the Spanish city; there's no way that little car could have sustained that amount of damage, but it's slick and fast. The score is bombastic and totally encapsulates the viewer, enveloping you in a wall of sound adding dimension to the film, definitely pulling you in which is the main intent of this film; for you, the viewer, to start piecing the individual parts together. The acting is a little soft at times, William Hurt probably giving the best performance here as the President who has moral conflicts with his political advisers, Sigourney Weaver is only in there to add another A-List name to the billboards as she's not really on screen for any real length of time. Stalwart Quaid is gruff enough to portray the service agent haunted by his own recent past although his acting here does fall somewhat short of what we can usually expect of him. It's a little too contrived, a little too clichéd and he plays the part only just more than adequately but certainly no more than that. Matthew Fox is obviously trying to break into the big screen to fund his pension as and when Lost finally reaches the conclusion to confound everyone in a couple of years time and although he's playing second fiddle to Quaid he fleshes out his role suitably enough. Forest Whittaker is slotted in there as an American tourist videoing the proceedings; his part again is a little clichéd and at times his acting is certainly not up to the standard we have experience from Whittaker in recent years; his character goes a little overboard at times obviously thinking he's a cross between a new Abraham Zapruder and a gung ho hero.
There no doubt that Vantage Point has its flaws but not enough to just dismiss this film. For an entertaining evening it's more than a worthwhile watch. It obviously doesn't have multiple viewings as say the excellent Usual Suspects but then what does in comparison to that giant? I think most will enjoy the way it pulls you into the film, the way it really does make you participate in the film and that's always an advantage, it runs out of steam a little towards the end but that aside I would certainly recommend this for a Saturday night viewing.
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