William Hurt, Forest Whitaker, Sigourney Weaver, Matthew Fox, Dennis Quaid
Despite its intriguing plot device, which some critics have hurriedly compared to "Rashomon," "Vantage Point" is far closer to the intellectually smug and self-righteous stylings of the Bruce Willis-led "Lucky Number Slevin," a 2006 thriller that wasn't nearly as brilliant as it thought it was and, by film's end had downward spiraled into a sea of cliche's and predictability.
The idea, at least, is unique. In "Vantage Point," a series of essentially five vignettes serves up the attempted assassination of the President of the United States (William Hurt) shortly after his arrival in Spain to sign a multi-nation agreement that will reportedly greatly impact terrorism around the world.
The first vignette, that of essentially following a studio executive (Sigourney Weaver) as she initially captures the goings on when the shots are fired and subsequent hell breaks loose. This scene, the film's most vividly captured, leads to vignettes involving the perspective of the Secret Service agents followed by that of an American tourist (Forest Whitaker), the President himself and, well, you get the point.
Current Hollywood "it" writer (at least before Diablo Cody's Oscar win) Barry Levy has certainly developed an interesting concept. The problem is, unfortunately, that after the film's first 10-15 minutes, "Vantage Point" loses sight of what made it unique to begin with and collapses under the weight of predictability, shallow character development and camera work from director Pete Travis ("Omagh") that seeks to combine the best and worst of the "Bourne" films with a touch of "Cloverfield" thrown in for kicks.
"Vantage Point" is likely to play stronger for the more casual moviegoer...a moviegoer who isn't necessarily aware that this same plot device has been used, minimally, three times in the past year and never to such a tedious and anti-climactic impact.
Having viewed these other films, on the other hand, left me watching "Vantage Point" nearly chuckling at certain points much to the dismay of those in the audience around me who seemed at least modestly involved in the film.
There's nothing wrong, per se, with a fast-paced political thriller. However, there is something that feels a tad wrong with a political thriller that emphasizes pace and style over intelligence, substance and, well, politics.
I'm sure there's a point to "Vantage Point," but it's hidden well beneath the rapid-fire cinema stylings of Travis's camera and Levy's concept over character approach.
As President Ashton, William Hurt could pull off such a role in his sleep.
In fact, he does.
The same is essentially true for Sigourney Weaver's harried TV executive and Dennis Quaid's jittery Agent Barnes, whose already taken a bullet for the President once.
Forest Whitaker, last year's Best Actor Oscar winner, seems to be showing us what Idi Amin may have done had he possessed an HD camcorder, while Matthew Fox isn't really given anything to do as a fellow agent working with Barnes.
After the film's captivating opening vignette, "Vantage Point" seems to lose grip and by the final scene one could almost feel audience members squirming with the all-too familiar anticipation of knowing the ending but hoping the writer pulls a fast one.
Levy doesn't pull a fast one.
While the film's climactic action sequences may very well be right at home in any number of action flicks, in a film such as "Vantage Point" they are a disappointing resolution to a film that doesn't begin to live up to its initial promise.
"Vantage Point" will undoubtedly stimulate the senses, a simple fact that is likely to lead to a healthy box-office debut. However, with little to offer beyond its unique plot device and rapidfire approach, "Vantage Point" is likely headed for a quick trip through theatres on its way to a more lucrative presence on home video.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic