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Feb 24, 2008

Fletch's Film Review: Vantage Point

Rashomon. There - it's been said, and I can move on.

Anyway, Vantage Point takes a not-so-novel concept - telling a story from several points of view - and really doesn't do much with it. The plot centers on an anti-terrorism summit taking place in Spain, where the U.S. President ("Ashton") is set to speak. On the scene are hundreds of Spaniards, scads of media, the Secret Service, tourists, and of course...terrorists. It's no spoiler to tell you that the President (William Hurt) gets shot, and almost even less of a spoiler to tell you that it's really not the President (POTUS) that gets shot, but his body double.

Letting that detail out in the trailer for the film was just the first of many mistakes made by the studio/producers, seeing as how it's one of two big twists in store for the viewer, and really, the bigger of the two. I guess that just goes to show the lack of confidence that was given the picture after the final product was delivered.

The film starts out pretty good, putting the viewer first in the news van of the fictional GNN (Global News Network), where the lead producer (played by a severely underused Sigourney Weaver) and her team watch the action unfold, first starting with POTUS's arrival, through a speech by the town's mayor and past the "assassination." Quickly, the film rewinds to three seconds before noon and starts again, this time form another perspective...and so on...and so on. Eventually, five or six iterations (I lost count) of the tale are unfolded, each giving not only a different perspective, but giving a few more details along the way and seeming to go on longer than the previous segment.

This presents another problem. Had this been presented in the style of the Johnny Depp flick Nick of Time (which played out in real time), perhaps the filmmakers would have realized that their editing was all wrong. Since the concept calls for each segment to play out over the same amount of time (let's say 15 minutes), then each segment should accordingly be roughly the same amount of time than its predecessor (a few seconds here or there could certainly be forgiven). This is not the case at all. The first segment with the news team last for maybe 10 minutes, while the last, which is a bit scattered in terms of which characters are being followed, is neverending, featuring a terminally long car chase that lasts much longer than it should, even by the film's timing. Besides, shouldn't the car chase be one of the more exciting parts of the movie?

To top it all off, there are several inconsistencies and/or continuity errors that also cannot be forgiven, considering that the entire concept of the film is based on the same set of events and timing. An explosion that happens immediately after X in segment two should happen at pretty much the same time (or, um, exactly) in segment three. If there was a Razzie for Worst Editing, Vantage Point would be a lock to win it. Throw in some unnecessary sentimentality and too-late-for-the-game character development and that more than kills the goodwill made up by a strong international cast (Dennis Quaid, Matthew Fox, Forest Whitaker, Bruce McGill and a favorite of mine, Said Taghmaoui, are also on board).

Fletch's Film Rating:


(PS - Just a warning: while not on the level of the Bourne flicks or Cloverfield, Vantage Point is filled with shaky cam, so if you do decide to see it and are susceptible to nausea, take a Dramamine.)

9 people have chosen wisely: on "Fletch's Film Review: Vantage Point"

Nick said...

I actually agree with a lot of things you said (check my review for more of my thoughts). The one thing I pondered putting in my review, but didn't, was the fact that I felt the car chase lasted a bit long. I kept comparing it back to Forest Whitaker's POV and how long it would be taking him to reach the bridge to see the shooting happen at the underpass. There was a point in the car chase where I was like "Okay... this is going slightly far... can we get to the climax already?"

Also, the pause between the guy getting shot at the underpass and Forest running for the girl did not match up in time with the guy getting shot at the underpass and then the attempted escape and interaction with Dennis Quaid all before the run for the girl.

I also swear there was a dialogue change at one point. During Quaid's scene, Forest said "I saw it, too," but during Forest's scene, he says something like "I saw a guy in the window, as well" or something along those lines.

I also agree that the final POV was very confusing... at first I had no idea who we were following... it took me about 10 minutes to realize it was both the bad guys and everybody mixed together for the big climax.

I swear, it would have been a much less confusing ending had they just completed each person's scenario when it was their turn instead of trying to mix everything together at once at the end (or at least have fewer bad guys).

Fletch said...

I checked out your review...I thought it kind of interesting and funny that you were generally kind to it in words, but your final rating was just a McLovin (right?).

The timing of the chase is what really bothered me. I mean, even taken out of the context of the timing of the rest of the movie, it was waaay too long, but when you throw in how it fits with everything else, it suddenly becomes laughable. I'd love to see someone diagram the timing - obviously, they didn't care about how out of whack it was, because it's impossible not to notice that. Throw in the fact that the car chase ends up being a big circle and it's just too much...

Nick said...

Yeah, it just got a McLovin from me (slightly above average). Though the only reason it got that was because I love movies and literature that play with narrative. If it hadn't done the multiple POV thing, it probably would have gotten a lower rating.

But yeah, it was entertaining and action-packed enough to keep my interest, and although it didn't do the POV thing very well, it still attempted it, so I gave it points for that.

There were actually quite a few things about the movie that bothered me, I just didn't vocalize them very openly or straightforwardly within the review (But they are there, for the most part). And I also noticed how the timing between the two bombings varied with each POV. Sometimes they were a few seconds apart, sometimes they were at least a minute.

Still, I liked Forest Whitaker's POV... it was like what Cloverfield could have been if it didn't have the focal point through the camera the entire time and just filmed the guy holding the camera.

Fletch said...

"And I also noticed how the timing between the two bombings varied with each POV. Sometimes they were a few seconds apart, sometimes they were at least a minute."

Yep - that's the other thing that killed it for me, though I really only noticed it being wildly off in one segment. In the others, the two explosions were set apart by about 2 minutes (give or take), but for one of them, it couldn't have been more than 10 seconds. Huh???

Sheamus the... said...

I only want to see this for Jack and Weaver.

The trailer looks exciting but I had my doubts.

Because i work in a theater I will probably check it out but it definitely isn't high priority.

Dave said...

The more I read what you are saying the less I like Vantage Point, but the truth is I thought that it was good and gave it a good review. It wasn't great and the editing was indeed shameful, but I don't think the timing of things was meant to line up. If they had been played out in real time sure, but since tons of footage was clipped it seemed like they just edited out the stuff that was not as exciting. Personally I would have liked it much better if they had left every bit in it. Just like the movie you mentioned or like Timecode (four frames simultaneously playing out) possibly. I think if it had all been real time it would have lined up, but breaking it up made the viewer try to figure out how these things lined up (and also made it not seem too). I still think you were a little harsh on Vantage Point though.

Fletch said...

You may be right.

That said, I thought the finale was laughable, and the editing (however you paint it) seemed too sloppy that, given the, er, Point of the movie, I can't let it off easy.

Dave said...

Fair enough, I surrender. I still liked it even though it could have been better.

Dan said...

I agree with a lot of things you say here. I didn't like Vantage Point - I felt it tried to make a point about media manipulation then proceeded to do the same thing it critiqued. It eventually became just another popcorn, no-brain actioner pretending to be high art. If it didn't try to be more than it was perhaps I'd enjoy it but as it did it was one film I'd rather not have to sit through again.