Thursday, February 21, 2008

Vantage Point

My Vantage Point review is in today's Westender.

Vantage Point
By Andrea Warner
3/5 stars

The premise of Vantage Point, a post 9/11 film that toes the line between suspense and action, is compellingly reminiscent of the great Rashomon, wherein the characters are part of a violent event — in this case, the American president is shot at a huge political summit where peace is about to be declared between the US and the Arab world — and the story unfolds in fragments from multiple points of view.

Vantage Point is entirely likable so long as you don’t dwell on it for too long. The gut reaction is to get caught up in the small details, stepping inside each character as he or she negotiates the circumstances of the assassination attempt, the bombings, the double-crosses, and the long car chase that brings the film to its conclusion.

However, if ruminated on even a little, Vantage Point’s surface starts to crack like a dinged windshield. There are far too many characters and interweaving fates, yet not enough new information to sustain each narrative. Dennis Quaid is dependable as the traumatized Secret Service Agent, and William Hurt gets a few fun moments as the commander-in-chief who refuses to compromise his liberal beliefs. His storyline could have made a much larger impact if the film’s trailer didn’t reveal one of the film’s key twists months ago.

Forrest Whitaker, charming as usual, plays the American civilian hero, an entirely unnecessary character that gives the movie unnecessary heart and dilutes the intensity of the action. The Spanish actors who fill out the terrorist quotient are treated more like cartoons than real people. And, we’re offered no motive for the “surprise” double-cross most viewers will see coming a mile away.

The film works as a popcorn flick, and its better than average February fare; but, for all its dramatic stops, starts, and rewinds, Vantage Point never quite lives up to its true potential.

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