Thursday, March 13, 2008

Dreary points of view

Film: Vantage Point
Cast: Dennis Quaid, Matthew Fox, Forest Whitaker, Sigourney Weaver

  Vantage Point had some potential but once you’ve seen the film you will know beyond doubt that it did not have much of anything else. The movie suffers from the most common film ailment – interesting concept, awful execution. And the filmmakers took some talented actors along for the ride. Maybe the actors thought the script could amount to more than the sum of their parts but they were sadly mistaken.

  Pete Travis directs Vantage Point from a screenplay penned by Barry L. Levy. He does a lot of misdirection with the help of cinematographer Amir Mokri but that does not cover the fact that the film was just going the motions with nothing special to offer. The trailer suggested that maybe something original was in store; perhaps a pulsepounding thriller without a dull moment or at least a popcorn action movie. The thriller feel was what Travis was going for with his idea of retelling an incident from eight different perspectives. The final result actually takes away any pace from the narrative and makes the audience bored with the whole process.

  The crux of the tale deals with an assassination attempt on the US president (William Hurt) while he is attending a terror summit in Spain. The film opens with the first character’s vantage point setting the scene for the events to unfold in an arena with a crowd ready to listen to the president’s speech. The camera stays with a single character for some amount of time as he or she interacts with others and shows what the individual experiences during the assassination attempt. Then, suddenly the scene freezes and rewinds back to a specific time. Then the same assassination attempt scene is played back from another character’s point of view. This should have kept viewers engrossed but by the time the fourth rewind begins, the interest level has already waned.

  So, as Vantage Point proceeds to show how the journalists see it, how the secret service agents deal with it, how a bystander tries to understand it, how the terrorists planned it and any other viewpoint thrown in for good measure, viewers will be forgiven if all they experience is a constant déjà vu effect. Even the acting talent does not do enough to get you riveted. Sigourney Weaver plays a TV news producer in charge of covering the event and her part is finished and forgotten before anything is made of her character. Dennis Quaid appears to be the central character – a secret service agent back after a hiatus and trying to find his feet again. Matthew Fox (of TV’s Lost) plays another agent and Forest Whitaker is a bystander with a camcorder, who inexplicably goes out of his way to get involved.

  As each rewind is completed, a little more information is provided and all the threads are supposed to be tied together in the requisite formulaic huge climax. Unfortunately, there is zero to get pumped up about and the surprises are as clichéd as they come. Levy’s writing takes quite a few sweet liberties with plausibility and serendipity. If director Travis expected the audience to care as he brought all the characters and the narrative together, he should have tried harder to add depth to their backstories. He adds some little bits and pieces so he can keep the tempo going, which just comes off as underdone. Towards the end, there is also an extended car chase sequence inserted which does nothing but prolong the agony. We have already seen Jason Bourne do it all and do it better. Many of the characters’ motivations are an unintentionally tangled web and the dialogues are nothing to write home about.

  Vantage Point is nothing but a stab at an action thriller gone haywire. Somewhere between the constant flashbacks and seemingly extravagant puzzle he was weaving, Travis loses sight of his own vision. A mediocre suspense story is the consequence and an air of campiness descends around all of it. And it is not the so-bad-it's-good feel that makes you want to see the movie. Just listen to what Quaid’s character says at the end for proof that the film inadvertently became campy enough to lose sight of the story it was trying to tell and in this case, that was the final nail in its coffin.

Rating: One out of five stars

(Published in Oman Mirror on March 12, 2008)

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