Monday, February 25, 2008

Vantage Point (spoilers)

We went to see this last night. It came out on Friday, and we had free passes. We have mixed feelings about it. It tells the story about an assassination attempt, but from a few different points of view. So with each telling of the same story, you learn a little more. The deal is, the US president is in Spain, along with leaders of a whole mess of other countries, for a summit on preventing terrorism worldwide. As soon as the president takes the podium, he is shot twice, and then all hell breaks loose with bombings and everything. The points of view we see are: 1) TV news producer Sigourney Weaver, watching every camera angle and bossing around her reporter and cameramen, as she watches the events unfold while maintaining come composure over her live broadcast; 2) Dennis Quaid as a secret service agent back on his first mission after taking a bullet for the president six months earlier; 3) Forest Whitaker as an American tourist with a video camera, which mysteriously still works after he pulls it out of the rubble after the bombs explode; 4) A Spanish police officer, who seems to have been unwittingly roped into playing a role in the whole attack; 5) the US President, who has worked so hard at this summit, only to be replaced by a double for the event in the face of intelligence indicating that an assassination attempt and terror threat will occur; 6) the mastermind behind the attack, who may or may not be connected to a cell in Morocco, and who flawlessly executes the whole attack remotely from his iPhone; 7) A would be assassin who has also been seemingly unwittingly roped in by the kidnapping of his brother, who will be returned to him in exchange for his use of his special forces skills to kill as many members of the president's entourage as necessary to assist in the kidnapping of the president; 8) Matthew Fox, as the other central secret service agent, who also plays an important role in the attacks, as we realize that all of the inside information that the attackers had came from him.

Eventually, as you see the last point of view, the whole thing comes together, and the last 1/2 hour or so is like a normal movie, without the rewinding and reshowing of the same events. The movie is fast paced and well-executed, with an original premise and a very strong cast. Dennis Quaid is excellent as the slightly jittery, newly returning secret service agent, and Forest Whitaker is endearing as the stereo-typical lonely tourist witness to history. The mixed feelings come from the level of detail and unresolved plot points that were lost in the action. While the president's advisers urge him to bomb a known terrorist camp in friendly Morocco, where they believe the orchestrators of the attack are harbored, the president refuses, and we never learn whether the attackers are actually related to that camp or not. Quaid saves the day, and the president, while all of the individuals involved in carrying out the attack are killed, leaving no way for everyone else to ever fully understand what went on, or who the attackers were working for or why. We never get anything behind the attack itself, leaving you feeling a bit unsatisfied. The car chase wherein Quaid commandeers a car to tail Fox, who's masquerading as a Spanish police officer and driving a police car, is a bit long and generally unbelievable. The camera angles used make for impossibly narrow near-misses and those ever-popular accidents where our hero (Quaid) gets nailed, but somehow the car spins exactly 360 degrees and he just continues the chase. The extreme close-ups were nauseating, and I felt motion sick when the chase finally ended.

Overall, though, I'd still recommend it if you enjoy action films. it was really good and definitely keeps your attention and keeps you guessing. Although if you've read this, I guess there's no mystery left in it for you. Just take the action and enjoy it, knowing that the reasons and background will never be explained.

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