Sony // 2008 // 90 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Franck Tabouring (Retired) // July 4th, 2008
"8 Strangers. 8 Points of View. 1 Truth."
Back when I first saw the trailer for Pete Travis' Vantage Point, I was immediately hooked. Although it did not reveal too much about the film's plot, the footage promised a sophisticated action flick with a captivating story, fast pacing, and a solid cast. Alas, trailers can be very deceiving. Although I don't think the movie is the big disappointment most critics say it is, you'll be surprised to discover that in the end, the puzzle is indeed a little too easy to solve.
The film kicks off at a crucial anti-terrorism summit in Salamanca, Spain, where U.S. President Ashton (William Hurt, The Good Shepherd) is expected to give an important speech about the global war on terror. But just as he's about to walk up to the podium and greet the crowd, he's struck by a bullet. As chaos ensues and the city is quickly put on lockdown, it's up to secret service agent Thomas Barnes (Dennis Quaid, The Day After Tomorrow) and his partner Kent (Matthew Fox, Lost) to figure out who gunned down the president. Assisted by an American tourist (Forest Whitaker, The Shield) who claims he spotted the shooter before the attack, Barnes embarks on a perilous manhunt that will eventually reveal the whole truth about what really went down in the minutes leading up to the assassination attempt.
If you expect too much from Vantage Point, chances are you'll end up hating it, but if you're willing to suspend your disbelief and quite simply go with the flow, I see no reason why you wouldn't enjoy it. It is obvious from the beginning that the first half of the movie is the most intriguing one. Although it's not necessarily a new concept, the plot spends the first hour replaying the first 15 minutes of the film, but from several points of view. What this means is that you're basically watching the same segment over and over again, but through the eyes of different characters. Not only is this a great way to change things up a little bit as far as pacing is concerned, but it's also a fun way to supply viewers with little bits of information about the entire truth behind the attack.
Although Barry L. Levy's shallow script is the main reason Vantage Point doesn't make it into the category of clever first-class thrillers, it doesn't have that much of a bad impact on the plot's fast pace. Travis is obviously a dab hand at directing highly entertaining action sequences, and you'll get plenty of those during the film's short 90-minute running time. No matter how silly it gets, the large dose of action that pretty much dominates the plot means it's never boring. The film's compelling visual style and clean editing contribute largely to the high level of entertainment, keeping up the suspense even during the chaos that explodes during the first hour, when we're moving back and forth in time. Over-the-top shoot-outs, car chases, and other pursuits will keep viewers busy during the second part of the movie.
The strong presence of action doesn't leave much time for decent character development, but that does not necessarily mean that the cast fails to put on a solid show. Sure, none of the actors really get to show off their skills because there are so many of them and onscreen time is limited, but they all do a pretty good job at playing their roles convincingly. Forest Whitaker's character is a little overdramatized, but Dennis Quaid, Matthew Fox, Said Taghmaoui, and even William Hurt put considerable effort into their performances.
From a technical point of view, this Blu-ray edition of Vantage Point is definitely worth the investment. The 2.40:1 non-anamorphic widescreen transfer boasts a gorgeous picture quality, and the image is extremely sharp throughout. The TrueHD 5.1 audio transfer is just as intriguing.
Besides a funny but rather unnecessary outtake, the bonus material on the disc features one of these dull in-movie GPS trackers, which allows you to follow all the main characters on a map at the bottom of the screen during the feature film. The special features also include three featurettes, which reveal a whole lot about the production of the movie. "An Inside Perspective" is a 26-minute behind-the-scenes look in which cast and crew members talk about the script, the main characters, the shooting, and the film's thematic. I really enjoyed this piece because it comes loaded with tons of footage from the set, offering a detailed look at everything that went on behind the camera. "Plotting an Assassination" focuses more on the script and the characters, while "Coordinating Chaos" delivers a great insight into the setup of some of the flick's key action sequences.
Other than that, the DVD includes a filmmaker's commentary with director Pete Travis, who talks about his vision and describes most of the film's scenes in great detail. It's a little boring at times because he basically describes the same thing we're seeing without giving viewers any additional information. It's not necessarily bad, but I wish Travis had put a little more energy into it. All in all, though, most of the special features are worth checking out in case you want to learn more about how challenging it was to shoot the movie.
Although the film delivers plenty of entertaining action, you certainly won't find a clever story in Vantage Point. The script by Barry L. Levy is utterly simplistic, and the intrigue he builds up at the beginning doesn't last until the end of the film. Instead of surprising its viewers with a subtle conclusion to the story, the plot turns into a simplistic mess lacking the creativity that boosted the first hour. The movie's political message is just as superficial. Although it's not exactly a newsflash, all we're told here is that the United States has become a vulnerable country over the past few years. The bad guys in the film want to show the world that Americans cannot imagine a world where they are not a step ahead, while the good guys engage in heroic actions to stop the bad guys and prove to the world they can also battle terror without just dropping bombs everywhere. Unfortunately, all of this is far too shallow to leave an impression.
Vantage Point features enough nail-biting sequences to please everyone willing to spend a couple of bucks to see some bad-ass stunts, and the 90 minutes definitely passes in a rush. Unfortunately, the absence of solid intrigue is too obvious, but the level of entertainment is so high and efficient, it's hard not to enjoy this flick.
Review content copyright © 2008 Franck Tabouring; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (Widescreen)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Portuguese)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Thai)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* "Surveillance Tapes": Outtake
* "An Inside Perspective": Interviews with Cast and Crew
* "Plotting an Assassination"
* "Coordinating Chaos: Stunt Featurette"
* Commentary with Director Pete Travis
* Vantage Viewer: In-Film GPS Tracker
* Official Site