Vantage Point

A clumsy first half doesn't detract much from a very enjoyable final half.

The American President is shot, while speaking in Spain, and we see the twenty minutes leading up to this over and over, from different vantage points. Basically the film 'rewinds' every so often and we start again with a new central character and follow them in the lead up to the shooting and for a few minutes afterwards. Dennis Quaid is a Secret Service Agent, not long back on the job from having been shot, Forest Whitaker is an apparently amiable American tourist, who never does anything without having his camcorder up and at the ready, Sigourney Weaver is a news director, barking orders at a crew of journalists and cameramen who are (they think) about to cover a Presidential speech, and so on.

Vantage Point is a big loud action film. When it stops to flesh out the story in some way (which happens a lot at the start) it tends to be pretty weak but when things speed up again and there is shooting and car chases and such then it is much more enjoyable. The car chase at the end is great and there is great satisfaction from seeing the truth revealed (to us). Early scenes (particularly the Sigourney Weaver segment) are hampered by clumsy exposition and awful dialog. Gems such as an emotional "Get up, kiddo!" (to a recently injured/killed journalist) and a grim "It happened on our watch!" are wont to make the eyes roll somewhat. Some of the twists in the story are very predicable (I spotted two of the bad guys from the very start) and some of the twists are genuinely surprising (one is like something from a sci-fi movie but it works very well here).

Quaid is a very good lead. Indeed, it's a pretty strong cast across the board. William Hurt and Whitaker are particularly good, while Weaver and Matthew Fox are sadly underused (so Lost fans won't get much of a Fox-fix from this movie, but he is very good when we see him). Lesser-known actors (like Edgar Ramirez and Saïd Taghmaoui) acquit themselves very well, too.

The gimmick used to tell the story is little more than a gimmick. You gain nothing much from this storytelling method (other than the sight of William Hurt getting shot over and over and over and over again). The revelations that come at the ending are only revelations because they reveal information that the movie wouldn't tell us earlier on. For example, at one stage Quaid sees something significant on a TV screen. He exclaims in surprise and runs from the room. For no reason (other than a choice designed to intrigue/frustrate us) the movie doesn't show us what he saw on the monitor. It deliberately keeps us in the dark. Until much later, when the the scene is shown again and we get to see what he saw. The film is full of stuff like that. For no reason. It's false mystery, false tension, and the story stands well enough without it.

Basically, they could have dropped the gimmick and told this as a standard action movie and it would have earned a solid "B" from me. But the gimmick (and the cool chase at the end) earns it a "B+".

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