Review: From any angle, Vantage Point not worth seeing

Vantage Point

Directed by Pete Travis.
Starring Dennis Quaid, Matthew Fox, Forest Whitaker, William Hurt, Edgar Ramirez, and Saïd Taghmaoui. 

Other reviewers keep comparing the new thriller Vantage Point to Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon, and it’s bugging the shit out of me. Where Vantage Point backs up its storyline five times in order to cover the same 23 minute span in a different location, or from a different place in the crowd, Rashomon is four different versions of the same events. Each iteration in Vantage Point is not showing a different, subjective version, but a different aspect of a single, objective event: that’s not at all the same thing. This is not to say that Vantage Point is original, or intelligent, or good, however. Because it’s not.

The gimmick, while not inherently a bad idea, got on my nerves because the first couple of times the filmmakers employed it, because it didn’t really reveal anything new. The last two back-ups, however, at least took the action across the street or a few blocks away, and you finally felt that the story was moving forward — except that, ultimately, where it moved to was either so obvious or so stupid that it didn’t matter. (Hey, guess what? There’s a traitor on the Secret Service — and you can tell who it is from his second line, over an hour before the film finally reveals it to the audience. Can fictional spy movies stop having double agents in, like, every single movie? It’s annoying.)

The disappointing thing about Vantage Point is that even though the film is kind of brain dead, it had a brisk pace (in spite of the two early, extraneous back-ups), the actors were all very good, and the actiony bits were done well enough that I was enjoying the movie in spite of it all — not a lot, but a little — but the entire story comes to a head at one particular moment so unbelievable, so amazingly idiotic, that it completely undermines any of the enjoyment I had taken from the preceding 80-something-odd minutes. I have to venture into spoiler territory to properly comment on this much of the film, so consider yourself warned: when a little girl wanders out into traffic, the terrorist — who has just bombed a plaza filled with scores of people, personally shot one hostage, and killed another dozen or so by sending a suicide bomber off to his death as a diversion — is so concerned about this girl’s safety that he jerks the wheel of the ambulance he’s driving so hard that it causes it to roll. Perhaps my understanding of how terrorists’ minds work is not as strong as screenwriter Barry Levy’s, but I would think someone who’s already killed any number of innocent children to just turn her into a little red smear on the road, rather than jeopardize his entire plan.

There is an extent to which films like this can coast by on a good cast and well-done chases (the film equivalent of looks and charm), but when the resolution of a film hinges entirely upon a mass murderer giving even the slightest shit about a child who can only be described as Movie Stupid, there’s just no getting past that.

Vantage Point is rated PG-13 and opened on Friday, February 23, 2008. After seeing the trailer for the past six months, I’m happier about the idea that I won’t need to see it in front of half the movies I watch than about having seen the movie.

Posted on February 23, 2008 at 16:42 by Gordon@MovieMakeout · Permalink
In: Reviews · Tagged with: 

5 Responses

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  1. Written by Pete
    on 2008-02-23 at 22:32

    I was afraid this is exactly how that movie would turn out.

  2. Written by Josh L
    on 2008-02-24 at 22:30

    Same here.

    Anyway I didn’t see the movie, but is it possible that he didn’t hit her to keep his cover? Like, someone would have noticed an ambulance hitting the little girl, and pointed it out, or was it a more obviously emotional sorta cheesy moment?

    I saw the trailers was in the back of my head, I always thought it could really be that(just looking at the event over and over) but was hoping it was called that because of there were bunch of different people who saw what happened, not because we are gonna have to watch the same thing over and over. Oh well…

  3. Written by Alek Felstiner
    on 2008-02-25 at 14:19

    In fairness to the Salon review (I didn’t read the others), the author there does make the same point you made about the different between gimmicky replays and actually exploring subjectivity, re: Rashamon.

  4. Written by Gordon McAlpin
    on 2008-02-25 at 14:45

    Yeah, but their subhead brings up the comparison (“The attempted assassination of a U.S. president is seen differently through various people’s eyes. Did someone say ‘Rashomon’?”) while, as you point out, the review goes on to explain exactly how the two are really not anything alike.

    So their bringing it up almost makes LESS sense.

    Or perhaps I’m misreading the sub and they’re mentioning it to respond to the differences (like I did) rather than pointing out the similarities (like the others have).

  5. Written by Ferdi
    on 2008-09-24 at 05:54

    Finally someone agrees about how this film incorrectly was compared to Rashomon!

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