At this point, I swear I've been seeing the trailers for Vantage Point since the days when all the actors looked the same because we hadn't evolved a second cell yet and it's really hard to tell one flagellate apart from another.
Thank goodness we have clothes and faces now.
Vantage Point's preview is seared into my retinas, though, meaning all I have to do is close my eyes to confirm that it shows a rather big plot twist from two-thirds deep into the movie. Something that, as written in the script, was no doubt intended to be a shocking revelation.
Trailer editing is a dark art indeed. Previews are like portals into a Bizarro World where Judd Apatow movies are humorless and dumb, I Know Who Killed Me is the product of a stable, healthy mind who doesn't believe his dog is going to poison him in his sleep, and Vantage Point is so brimming with originality that the real challenge would be finding a clip that doesn't show some hair-raising new twist. In our own pale universe, it gets props for trying something different, but it would have been nice if it had anything else of interest besides its byzantine structure and a few good actors.
In Spain, President William Hurt is set to deliver a speech at an anti-terror accord between Western and Arab nations. Before he can say a word, he's shot down on stage. Within minutes, bombs go off around the plaza.
First seen through the cameras and eyes of a TV broadcast crew, the story then jumps back to noon that day, shortly before the attacks, where Secret Service man Randy Quaid preps himself for the speech. As the strikes unfold, we see new details and suspects who appear to be involved; the story leaps back to noon three more times, each time following different characters and angles until who's behind it and how they did it becomes clear.
Judging by the laughter, sighs, and curses of the audience I was with, this multi-point-of-view stuff didn't fly for everyone. I think the general rule of swearing at the theater is that movies that make you swear with exclamation points -- "Hot damn!" or "Sweet Fancy Moses!" -- that's when you're on to something. When that cursing has questions marks -- generally anything that starts off "What the-?"-- you're doing it wrong. Not to say we should form our opinions of movies based on whatever obscenities we hear shouted out in the middle of them, but it's not a good sign.
I keep seeing Vantage Point compared to Rashomon, like using the same technique as a renowned classic's supposed to give it film cred, but I think the idea behind the whole "switch between different characters until we get the whole story" thing is to blow our brains out our ears as our expectations keep getting dumped on their heads.
The ins and outs of the terrorists' plot and a few suspicious-acting people who later turn out to be bad guys doesn't exactly live up to the idea of brain-exploding. Brain-warming, maybe. Like when you lean too close to a lamp with a 100-watt bulb. (Seriously, don't try that, a few hours and you'll end up like the Phantom of the Opera.) I didn't have any big problems with the movie's unusual structure, but it just felt arbitrary, like writer Barry Levy crammed it in because he thought it would be cool rather than because the plot cried out for it.
Strip all the weird structural stuff away and you've got a pretty generic, if effective, action movie with a good cast in bland roles and zero political relevance. That's a fistful of mediocrity right there.
However much I might admire it for trying something different -- imagine me holding my fingers a couple inches apart -- Vantage Point's style is questionable and its substance doesn't seem to be there at all.