"Vantage Point" weak from all angles


Feb. 25, 2008, midnight | By Greg Kohn | 13 years, 11 months ago

Action can't make up for thin plot


Hollywood's latest attempt at turning the War on Terror into a compelling movie script begins with an assassination attempt on the President. Shown from five different points of view, "Vantage Point" had the utmost potential to be a clever, impressive movie. Unfortunately, it failed on almost all fronts, relying on implausible and disconnected events and desperately clinging to its novelty.

"Vantage Point" opens in Salamanca, Spain, as the U.S. president arrives at a global summit for anti-terrorism and takes the stage at a large outdoor rally. Seen through the eyes of the news team covering the event, the audience witnesses the president being shot and spectators falling victim to a bomb explosion.

The scene is then repeated from the viewpoints of Secret Service agents Thomas Barnes (Dennis Quaid) and Kent Taylor (Matthew Fox), Spanish policeman Enrique (Edward Noriega), spectator Howard Lewis (Forest Whittaker), President Ashton (William Hurt) and the assassination mastermind Suarez (Said Taghmaoui).

"Repeated" is used deliberately, each new view enlightens the audience to slightly new information, but too many of the scenes were redundant and predictable. Lewis's scene, for instance, reveals that there was a bomb, an event already clear. When the scene rewound for the fifth time, an audible groan resounded in the theaters.

Moreover, aside from its novelty, the movie offers very little. Its plot more often than not relayed promising details that were never explained. When the movie finally moves away from replaying the assassination, the contrived scenes are almost redeemed by a few unexpected twists. However, these inklings of plot are 50 minutes too late and fall far short.

The climax is reached in a stunning car chase scene where Agent Barnes pursued those responsible for the attack, though the cinematography and frenetic editing may induce a headache. In tiny and crowded city streets, Barnes' blue car danced impossibly through traffic. And luckily for Dennis Quaid and the plot, it's only a movie and several collisions (including being smashed into a wall by a twenty-wheeler) aren't enough to keep Barnes down (or even make him bleed).

Despite everything, "Vantage Point" had the potential to be saved by superior acting. No such luck. After opening with a strong but brief performance by Sigourney Weaver as a news director, the acting is lackluster at best. Taghmaoui is unconvincing as a terrorist, and Fox seems "lost" without his fellow islanders. Quaid and Whittaker are the only two that provided solid performances.

But you can't entirely blame the actors. Director Pete Travis in his big screen debut and screenwriter Barry Levy gave the cast very little story, character development or motive to work with.

By the end, "Vantage Point" was really a 40-minute movie that lasted an hour and a half, dragging out its already thin plot. Action is important to drive a story, but there must be a consistent and believable story to begin with. There were moments of brilliance, where the different perspectives of witnesses were interconnected just right so unexpected details were maximized. But these moments were far and few between, and the rest was just fancy editing with no meaning.

From the vantage point of the movie-going public, this is one film to forego.

"Vantage Point" (90 mins) is rated PG-13 for sequences of intense violence and action, some disturbing images and brief strong language.




Greg Kohn. Greg Kohn is a native Marylander. He's lived in one house his whole life, played soccer since before he could talk, and loves to chant "09" when it's really quiet. He hates being called Gregory, and he wishes he were more organized. He was a … More »

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