Movie News & Reviews

"Vantage Point" switching results in disadvantage

At this point, I swear I've been seeing the trailers for VantagePoint since the days when all the actors looked the same becausewe hadn't evolved a second cell yet and it's really hard to tell oneflagellate apart from another.

Thank goodness we have clothes and faces now.

Vantage Point'spreview is seared into my retinas, though, meaning all I have to do isclose my eyes to confirm that it shows a rather big plot twist fromtwo-thirds deep into the movie. Something that, as written in thescript, was no doubt intended to be a shocking revelation.

Trailer editing is a dark art indeed. Previews are like portals intoa Bizarro World where Judd Apatow movies are humorless and dumb, IKnow Who Killed Me is the product of a stable, healthy mind whodoesn't believe his dog is going to poison him in his sleep, andVantage Point is so brimming with originality that the realchallenge would be finding a clip that doesn't show some hair-raisingnew twist. In our own pale universe, it gets props for tryingsomething different, but it would have been nice if it had anythingelse of interest besides its byzantine structure and a few goodactors.

In Spain, President William Hurt is set to deliver a speech at ananti-terror accord between Western and Arab nations. Before he cansay a word, he's shot down on stage. Within minutes, bombs go offaround the plaza.

First seen through the cameras and eyes of a TV broadcast crew, thestory then jumps back to noon that day, shortly before the attacks,where Secret Service man Randy Quaid preps himself for the speech. Asthe strikes unfold, we see new details and suspects who appear to beinvolved; the story leaps back to noon three more times, each timefollowing different characters and angles until who's behind it andhow 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 thegeneral rule of swearing at the theater is that movies that make youswear with exclamation points -- "Hot damn!" or "Sweet FancyMoses!" -- that's when you're on to something. When that cursing hasquestions marks -- generally anything that starts off "Whatthe-?"-- you're doing it wrong. Not to say we should form our opinionsof movies based on whatever obscenities we hear shouted out in themiddle of them, but it's not a good sign.

I keep seeing Vantage Point compared to Rashomon, likeusing the same technique as a renowned classic's supposed to give itfilm cred, but I think the idea behind the whole "switch betweendifferent characters until we get the whole story" thing is to blowour brains out our ears as our expectations keep getting dumped ontheir heads.

The ins and outs of the terrorists' plot and a few suspicious-actingpeople who later turn out to be bad guys doesn't exactly live up tothe idea of brain-exploding. Brain-warming, maybe. Like when youlean too close to a lamp with a 100-watt bulb. (Seriously, don't trythat, a few hours and you'll end up like the Phantom of the Opera.) Ididn't have any big problems with the movie's unusual structure, butit just felt arbitrary, like writer Barry Levy crammed it in becausehe thought it would be cool rather than because the plot cried out forit.

Strip all the weird structural stuff away and you've got a prettygeneric, if effective, action movie with a good cast in bland roles andzero 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 substancedoesn't seem to be there at all.

Grade: C+

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