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"Convoluted and Contrived"*

  • Jul 31, 2008
`Vantage Point' is one of those movies that drew me by its trailer. At a kinetic pace we see a frenetic adventure as an assassination attempt on the President takes place, while a "double"** of him has been placed on his behalf on stage at a terrorist summit in Salamanca, Spain. Interlocking pieces fit together to give us a composite of conspiracy and treachery. Perhaps having high expectations I was more than a little disappointed with this mystery-thriller ride. I generally give most movies the benefit of the doubt, for being a news junkie, I find real-life stories often inspire or scotch what we see on the screen. "Truth is stranger than fiction," I often quote. This time there are definitely some credibility issues afoot.

Many witnesses see the assassination attempt of President Ashland (William Hurt). On the platform in Plaza Mayor are two secret service agents, Barnes (Dennis Quaid) and Taylor (Matthew Fox), overseeing all danger signs. In the square is bearded Enrique (Eduardo Noriega). He looks like a revolutionary, but must be a plain-clothes police officer. When the President's double is shot, he rushes the stage. Is it treachery? Or is it duty? Connected to him is Veronica (Ayelet Zurer). Together they talk about another man. Is she seeing someone else? Or is he their sinister connection? Time will tell. She has connections with Javier (Edgar Ramirez) who must be the other man. More ambiguity fills their conversation.

Also in attendance is Howard, an American tourist with a video camera. He's left his wife behind to tour Europe, and now he's getting everything on tape. He meets a woman when he bumps into her little girl and offers to buy her a new ice cream cone. Another point-of-view is provided by GNN (Global News Network) headed by program manager, Rex Brooks (Sigourney Weaver). After the attempt, Agent Barnes bursts into their headquarters watching the tragedy on tape. Often times what Barnes sees is hidden from us--to be revealed at a later time. Meanwhile, one of the characters is desperately trying to get his brother released as a hostage.

I have to give the film some credit for ingenuity. They have showcased another flashy format in their approach. Trouble is we don't really get to know the characters. Before we get a chance to love or loathe them, the movie backs up about fifteen minutes to show us the proceedings from another's eyes. Unlike, say 'Crash' where we truly care about the angst in people's lives, all we can do here is commiserate their situations. (If you thought 'Crash' was too coincidental, just wait until you get a load of this.) Tragically, this spills over into the "whodunit" or puzzle portion of the film's alleged draw. If some of the narrative is meant to give us "clues" as to the guilty parties, it becomes a "tacked-on" exercise during the revelations of the denouement. There are few "ah-ha's" in the resolution.

I also have problems with Horace. He captures everything, and I mean EVERYTHING on tape. What he doesn't film on his video camera, he makes up by being there for the continuing drama. Always at the right place at the right time. There are lucky Pulitzer Prize winning journalists with luck less than his. And what about the double? I've seen Hollywood doubles, and there's a resemblance. Sigourney Weaver or at least somebody would catch it, but, no, William Hurt's clone is on stage. After the mayor makes a gracious speech, the President always says something. At least, "Gracias". Of course he gets shot, but what were they planning to do if he didn't get shot? Does he do impressions of the President as well?

The acting? One of the biggest challenges I believe an actor faces is facing a tragedy. After all, how many ways can you say, "Oh, my Gawd!"? Forest Whitaker gets my vote for the best in this high-tech puzzler, but Sigourney Weaver delivers her usual goods as well. I can't say I'm inspired either way about the rest, but again I try to fit myself in their shoes: The how to muster the awful-without-sounding-like-it actor's syndrome.

With all the grandiose deception, I have to use a word I've never used before: contrived. Yes, I hate that deadly word, for I'd hate to be responsible for being wrong. It's like an assassination of a movie, so I've never used it before---until now. You have to be careful. It's not something to use lightly.

A J.P.'s Pan 2.5*'s=Mediocre-Fair

(*After submitting my review, I checked out others', and I found that Jeff Vice of Salt Lakes' 'The Deseret News' used that phrase in his review. Posted on 2/22/08, I have to credit him. **The Presidential double is established in the film's trailer.)

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More Vantage Point reviews
review by . June 24, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Consistent story telling, acting by several of the principles      Cons: Only a so-so plot and every frame that has Dennis Quaid in it      The Bottom Line: If you like Forrest Whittaker, Sigourney Weaver, William Hurt, then watch it.  Otherwise, it is an ok film that is at best not a waste of time.       Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot. Vantage Point is an easy to follow nonlinear …
review by . February 16, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
VANTAGE POINT is a dramatic action film told from multiple points of view. The movie is set in Spain and revolves around the President of the United States as he delivers an important speech during an anti-terrorism summit. The movie follows the President of the United States (William Hurt), two Secret Service agents (Dennis Quaid & Matthew Fox) sworn to protect him, and several bystanders in the crowd (including Forest Whitaker). During the delivery of his message, an attempted assassination attempt …
review by . November 15, 2008
Basic premise:   1. The President of the United States is speaking at an anti-terrorism summit in Spain   2. He gets shot   3. There is an explosion   4. A bigger explosion follows     The film loops these events over and over, each from the perspective of a different character, with each loop adding a little more information than the last.     Beginning with news producer Rex Brooks (Sigourney Weaver) laying the foundation …
review by . September 08, 2008
'Vantage Point' a solid film. It's a fast-paced, action-political thriller that reaches out to those who enjoy gun fights and car chases but want substance when it comes to the plot and characters. The film centers on the story of the attempted assassination of the American president just as he's about to address a peace conference in Spain. We see the perspective of eight people caught up in the events, from the terrorists themselves to CIA agents to ordinary citizens, with each person holding …
review by . July 02, 2008
The story line of VANTAGE POINT is a brief one: a summit meeting on terrorism aimed at addressing the differences between the Arab world and the Western world is taking place in Salamanca, Spain and the arrival of the President of the United States is greeted with assassination attempts, terrorist explosions, and car chases. The difference in this thriller from the many others of the same genre is the use of telling the story from at least five different vantage points - the news reporters (Sigourney …
review by . April 15, 2008
Pros: Great acting by all concerned.     Cons: Too many plot holes; somewhat predictable.      The Bottom Line: Despite Vantage Point’s glaring flaws I found myself liking the film at least enough to give it a weak nod.     Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot. A really intelligent movie is getting hard and harder to find in Hollywood’s modern day repertoire. There was a time when that was practically …
About the reviewer
John L. Peterson ()
Ranked #99
I am a substitute teacher who enjoysonline reviewing. Skiing is my favorite pastime; weight training and health are my obsessions;and music and movies feed my psyche. Books are a treasure and a pleasure … more
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A presidential assassination attempt is told from multiple points of view in Pete Travis's directorial debut, VANTAGE POINT. U.S. president Ashton (William Hurt) is in Salamanca, Spain (though much of the film was actually shot in Mexico), to announce plans for a major global summit on terrorism. But as he stands behind the podium in front of an adoring crowd (with protesters blocked off from the stage), he is shot twice, followed shortly by a small explosion and then a massive blast. Secret Service Agents Barnes (Dennis Quaid), Taylor (Matthew Fox), and Holden (Richard T. Jones) immediately jump into action, trying to find the terrorists responsible amid all the chaos. The thriller first shows the events through the eyes of television news producer Rex Brooks (Sigourney Weaver), and then the film rewinds, replaying the action from a different point of view. Each perspective reveals a few more clues, then rewinds again, taking the audience through the assassination attempt and its aftermath again. VANTAG...
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