by David Cornelius
“Vantage Point” opens with a shot of Sigourney Weaver as an intrepid television producer named Rex Brooks. Rex Brooks! How nice. Right from the start, the movie tells you it will not be good, and we should appreciate its honesty.As we watch Rex Brooks lead the world’s least authentic news broadcast (nobody’s actually doing anything television-y, but at least Zoë Saldana gets to be entirely unconvincing as a terrible reporter who sneaks in political commentary during routine coverage of the U.S. President’s visit to Spain), we’re introduced to the gimmick of the movie: After the President (William Hurt) is shot and terrorists set off a couple explosions around the town square, the movie stops, rewinds itself, then starts the same story over from a new story perspective. It does this over and over again, so we can see the assassination as it pertains to a goofy American tourist (Forest Whitaker), a grizzled Secret Service agent (Dennis Quaid), the President himself, a Spanish police officer (Eduardo Noriega), and so on. With each rewind, we go back a little more, uncovering new twists and turns that reveal more of the conspiracy.
"Can we rewind to the time when the movie didn't suck? No?"
If you strip away the gimmick, you discover you have at best thirty minutes of actual story, none of it remotely good. With the gimmick, then, you get a thin story stretched beyond its capacity, with tiresome plot twists and ridiculous character actions filling the space where smart storytelling should go.
Director Pete Travis (a TV vet making his feature debut) and rookie writer Barry Levy spend the entire film hoping to hook the audience with a series of surprises and cliffhangers, but both are presented so cheaply that neither ever works. One such cliffhanger - a little girl wanders into traffic during a car chase, and as the movie rewinds itself, we’re left waiting a good thirty minutes before we find out if she makes it across the street in one piece - is not only poorly staged and sloppily written (the script can’t think of a reason for her to be in the street, so it just skips that part in the hopes we won’t notice), but it’s a dirty, cheap ploy. Need tension? How about a child in peril? It’s no spoiler to reveal that the girl lives, because this is a movie that, despite appearances, takes no risks. Behind the rewind-repeat stunt, “Vantage Point” is just an empty-headed spy thriller, a watered-down “Bourne” film, a no-brainer version of “24.” It’s not the sort of movie that would be risky enough to even consider harming a child, and with the cliffhanger’s outcome not suspenseful but merely inevitable, the kid-in-danger bit shows the film grasping at straws, desperate to add in whatever undemanding suspense it can find.
The plot itself is cluttered with body doubles and doublecrosses and horrible, horrible dialogue like “Surprised to still see me alive?” and “Your brother spoke very highly of your Special Forces training. Do not disappoint him.” and “I’m cool with censorship. I know the American people love that.” and “You have a glow about you.” “It’s the heat.” “The heat?” There’s also a story thread that leaves one character, who’s being used as a pawn by the bad guys, screaming “Where’s my brother?” every three minutes, turning the character into a running gag on par with the paperboy from “Better Off Dead.” Oh, and during one big speech, a Spanish mayor addresses the Spanish people in English, which is hilarious.
“Vantage Point” is a movie that swears it’s being clever yet refuses to trust the audience - each rewind sequence has an on-screen clock reminding us how the rewind works, because darn it if we’re too stupid to figure it out on our own. Each twist is laughably contrived, each character hilariously one-dimensional, each performance curiously overacted. (All those Oscar winners and nominees, and not one decent role?) This is, quite frankly, a stupid, stupid movie, and the sad part is, it thinks it’s a straight-A student.Plus: “Rex Brooks.” Seriously, movie?
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originally posted: 07/17/08 21:20:45