A lack of perspective

Dave Newman looks at Vantage Point from all angles, but still can’t find a good movie.

Vantage Point follows the stories of several different characters as their paths converge at a counter-terrorist summit where the President of the United States is gearing up to make a speech. In order to split the narrative up like this, the movie employs an unconventional approach, showing a series of events from the point of view of one character, rewinding, and then showing the same sequence from another character, giving us another piece of the puzzle until we’ve seen everything from everybody’s point of view and the mystery is solved. But this is as far as the movie’s originality goes. It gets bogged down with clichés, and a mystery that’s stretches believability a little too far.

The film employs a respectable cast, including John Hurt, Sigourney Weaver, and Forest Whitaker, but everyone sounds like their phoning it in. Weaver is especially wooden as a news producer overseeing a large camera crew covering the event. She sounds bored, but can you blame her? It’s not groundbreaking stuff, we’re thrown the obligatory red herrings, a sinister conspiracy is uncovered, throw in a car chase, and we call it a day. The movie isn’t terrible; it offers up a glimmer of social commentary about the United States dealings with nations suspected of harboring terrorist cells, but there’s simply not much to it. We’re never allowed to get to know the characters any better than the plot requires us to, and the script lacks any kind of political depth of meaning. What we’re left with is something that feels suspiciously like filler.

The plot concerns a large summit in Morocco where President Ashton, played by John Hurt, is announcing the signing of a new treaty that will supposedly provide a ground-breaking step towards quelling international terrorism. Fair enough. Unfortunately, the spectacular plaza where the crowd has congregated is thrown into chaos when President Ashton is shot, and moments later a bomb is detonated. The events leading up to and following this disaster is where the meat of the film’s mystery comes into play. Forest Whitaker plays Howard Lewis, an American tourist, who steps into the plaza with a handi-cam at the ready. Through the lens of his camera, as well as those of the news crew’s cameras, we slowly see more and more of what was occurring on the outskirts of the plaza, and we soon discover that there is more to some of the protagonists than meets the eye. It is ever thus with these sorts of things.

If the plot overview I’m giving you sounds a little skimpy, it’s because I’m trying to tread lightly over the details of the revelations that come out over the course of the film. Despite the fact that I didn’t buy the movie’s big final plot twist for a second, I’ll have to give a little credit for the genuine surprise I felt at finding out what was really going on behind the scenes at the big summit. Surprise, yes, but not so much in the context where the big reveal arrives and you say “Now it all makes sense”, followed by the strong desire to see the film again and pick up on all the little intracicies. No, here there are very few intricacies to be found, just a big dumb action climax and a reveal where you shake your head and say “Really? THAT’S the bad guy? Seriously?”

With a film like Vantage Point, it’s hard to criticize it too harshly for not being that good. I get the sense that not a single person involved in the production of this movie ever once assumed it was very good. It’s a mindless diversion at best, with any attempts at political or social commentary being dumbed down to the extreme, and all the actors looking like they’re simply going through the motions. I wish the first time the scene rewound itself, the tape got jammed and the movie ended on a higher note.

Vantage Point is now in theatres. Call Empire Studio 12 at 722-5775 for times and prices.