Vantage Point (2008) dir. Pete Travis
Starring: Dennis Quaid, Matthew Fox, Forest Whitaker
Something went extremely wrong in the making of this film. The concept is really cool – a political assassination in Spain shown from many view points to reveal the cause and effect build up, execution and fall out of the event. I suspect the film never got better than the concept as the script went to camera wrought with sloppy plotholes, contrivances and extraneous chaff that should have been cut away after the first draft. As a result, the entire film falls apart even before the halfway point.
The film takes place during a public appearance of the U.S. President (William Hurt) at some kind of peace summit in Salamanca, Spain. From within a remote TV control room we see the action unfold through the multiple camera angles covering the live event. Suddenly the President is shot, mass chaos, several more expositions and then just shock and awe. The film then literally rewinds in front of our eyes and replays the events from a different point of view. This happens several times over the course of the 90mins, each time attempting to piece together the mystery of the event.
The key characters include Thomas Barnes (Dennis Quaid) one of the secret service agents, who’s looking to redeem himself for another assassination attempt on the President 6 months ago; Kent Taylor (Matthew Fox), Barnes’ loyal number two, Forest Whitaker, a gentle American drowning out the sorrows of his recent divorce by vacationing alone in Spain and who captures some key evidence on his camcorder; U.S. President Ashton (Hurt) and his war-hungry minions who continually prod him into attacking Morocco; Javier (Edger Ramirez), Suarez (Saïd Taghmaoui) and Veronica (Ayelet Zurer) a group of smarmy terrorist-looking locals up to no good. Etc etc.
Warning: Spoilers Ahead. The film starts to go downhill when we see the President’s vantage point. We’ve already seen him get shot three times, but when we see William Hurt’s point of view we are given the most ridiculous explanation to keep Hurt in the film. Upon hearing about rumours of a security threat, the Secret Service employs a “double” to make the official appearance (and who ultimately gets shot – poor soul). And how we could believe the President would have a “stunt double” is covered up with the laughable line from ‘Agent #1’ “we’ve been using doubles since Ronald Reagan”. From there film dives into the deepest depths of ridiculousness. Every cliché is used to create false drama, including a reluctant terrorist who performs his work under threat of having his brother killed, the runaway child in peril who is rescued last minute from on oncoming bus, and various other eye-rollers.
The filmmakers even break their own rules and abandon the vantage point concept, midway through the film. Stuart Baird, who edited the film, a veteran of editing slick thrillers (he cut all the Richard Donner classics including “Lethal Weapon”), is perhaps too experienced. The film feels like those antiquated brainless action-thrillers from the 80’s/90’s – not the realistic, gritty intelligent Bourne/Bauer-era films.
I have to lay blame on producer Neil Moritz who is not an untalented or experienced producer. The film likely started out in the ‘concept’ stage – to do a “Rashomon-type” treatment of an act of terrorism told in the style of “24” and the Bourne series. Indeed merging these three films together is a great idea. But either laziness in the writing, a hastened production schedule, maybe some missed coverage during production, or even sloppy editing contributed to this dog’s breakfast. And it’s all on Moritz’s watch.