Film Review Vantage Point
Director: Pete Travis (2008)
I actually quite like Vantage Point, I don’t mean ‘like’ in The Three Musketeers sense (Which I’m now comfortable enough to officially declare as a Steampunk churned insult to cinema), but ‘like’ as in noun sense of ‘things one prefers’. That’s not to say that Vantage point isn’t without its many many ma-hen-eey faults, or that Vantage Point is a good film, it’s not, but simply to state, as a matter of record, that I quite like Vantage point.
Told as an ensemble piece (a la Magnolia) it’s set in that quaint world of international espionage that existed in films between September 12th 2001 and January 21st 2009, where high-tech terrorists have infiltrated The American government, white men can still be American president, world leaders are likeable, humble rogues holding back psychotic Secretaries of Defence, only small-role characters get hurt in car crashes and despite not initially speaking their own language, every none English speaking character will randomly burst into flawless English whenever an important plot point is being discussed. This period was also notable for the amount of times Saïd Taghmaoui, one of the greatest French actors there has ever been (Watch Le Haine and tell me I’m wrong), was given a shit role and turned it to gold.
In this Mr Taghmaoui plays a terrorist mastermind, alongside Dennis Quaid (Bodyguard), Mathew Fox (Bodyguard number 2), Forest Whitaker (Tourist), William Hurt (President), Edgar Ramirez (terrorist), Eduardo Noriega (Grizzly Spanish cop), Sigourney Weaver (Television Producer) and a bunch of other actors who get little more than bit parts and so are not named. The president is making an anti-terror speech in Madrid, things go a little wrong for him. That’s pretty much the plot.
I’ll start with what’s naff about Vantage Point, its lame, a bit boring in places, pretty predictable and every character is as one dimensional as Hitler’s opinion of Jewish poetry. Barely anyone says anything that nears the point of leaving the realm of the superficial, and the roads of Madrid appear to have become a singularity where characters will constantly run into each other no matter how long/fast/far they’ve been driving, or in what direction. There are bits that outright don’t make any sense and one of the daftest attempts at a Lady Macbeth character I’ve seen since the day a TIE group came to my school and a bearded man channelled the spirit of Brian Blessed to play the role. HE DID NOT DO WELL.
All that said, I’m not joking, I actually do like Vantage Point, I’d even let you get away with saying I was fond of it, as long as you said so behind closed doors, in another room, in another house, on another street, and the closed doors are made of three inches of solid steel titanium, but that’s generally how I feel about anyone saying anything. The reason I like Vantage Point, is, despite all its faults, it’s a good example of storytelling. The characters may be one dimensional, but they all stay within their single dimensional confines. They don’t try and show hidden depth, or meaning, or to make me care about them, they just are who they are, and because of that the story flows. I don’t have a time traveling Denzel Washington trying to make me believe he’s not a complete moron or the worst possible incarnation of John Connor, Nick Stahl, trying to convince me he can go from drunk bike rider to world leader because he hid in a magical bullet proof coffin. Instead I just get a bunch of people who are who they are and act accordingly, nothing unpredictable or noteworthy, and thanks to that, the story can use these characters and flow.
The acting is solid, each role is cast correctly to what each character is required to do, Forest Whittaker is likeable and sympathetic, exactly what his character needed to be, Dennis Quaid is tough and ragged, exactly what his character need to be, and Saïd Taghmaoui is enigmatic and intriguing, exactly what his character needed to be. Each actor turns up, performs well, then leaves, no one hams it up, or tries to force add their own character plot points. They all play around a bit, some shoot people, some run from people, some crash cars, and it’s all logical, straight forward and followable.
So what I really find enjoyable about Vantage point is that it’s told logically, in the first few scenes we repeat the same events, but each time we build at a logical pace. For instance, the first character we follow is Sigourney Weaver’s television producer. She gets interested in Dennis Quaid, we get some of his character’s back story, and then bam, the next scene is Dennis Quaid’s story. Logically introducing characters and giving me time to attach/ de-attach to them is something that all too often gets missed in films, indeed, not being reduced to post-viewing descriptions along the lines of the bearded one who was good at computers, or the blond one who wore pink that got stabbed third for once, but rather having the opportunity to discuss characters by their interesting traits, became enough reason for me to set off a celebratory party popper. Celebratory set off in my room, on my own, sat in the dark, wishing I had friends of course, but celebratory set off none the less.
Finally, Vantage Point has some great explosions. The trick it turns out, is to have explosions occur very suddenly, very close to the action, without warning, and then engulf the entire area in realistic black smoke, rather than the old ‘5 minute long fire followed by more fire with four or five explosions occurring slightly next to each other’ approach made famous by Thunderbirds and used at nausea by my good friend Tony Scott. In fact, despite a remarkable lack of fatalities, I’d say the car crash scenes, and there are a few, are pretty decent as well. It’s just all round well made, a bad story yes, but a well told bad story, and that’s all I need to interest me. That and Forest Whittaker, he can do anything.
There’s a sad truth there, but there it is, tell a bad story decently, and no matter how terrible the plot is, I’ll become attached and want to watch to the end, tell a fantastic story badly on the other hand, and the main reason I’ll watch to the end is because I feel it’s the proper thing to do before I savage the film in one of my unread masterpiece reviews.
Written By Sam ‘Seriously considering having a Forest Whitaker day as an excuse to watch Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai, The Last King Of Scotland and Repo Men in the same wonderful day’ McKinstrie
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