Before their release, certain movies seem to have it all: the best actors, the most exciting premise, and an awesome preview. Once those movies open in theaters though, most of them turn out to be disappointing flops; movies that could but didn’t. Vantage Point, with its cast and premise, sets the bar high for itself. After all, William Hurt, Forest Whitaker, Sigourney Weaver and Dennis Quaid in a smart political action-thriller seems more like a wet dream than a reality. Vantage Point however is not too-good-to-be-true; it is truly good. In fact, it is even better than it looks.
The movie centers on an attack against the President of the United States (Hurt) in Majorca, Spain, during a summit uniting all Arab leaders to create a truce in the Middle East. Do not panic, this movie is not a sappy pro-American right-wing piece of political propaganda. In fact, Vantage Point is not a very political movie. It uses contemporary politics to establish a grave sense of urgency and to get the action going, but never delves too deep into the core subject matter. Whenever it dabbles in political themes however, the film is at its weakest; thankfully it seldom does. Instead, the film chooses to explore the multiple facets of a single event by playing the event five times, each time from the different perspective of a key member and/or witness of the attack in question.
Director Pete Travis handles the script masterfully considering the difficulty of maintaining a level of thrill and suspense while showing the same scene over and over. Despite the repetitive nature of the storytelling, the action remains teeth-grindingly addictive from beginning to end as Travis skillfully uses the intricacies of moviemaking to his full advantage. The camera work is hectic and erratic enough to translate the chaos and panic of the event while still ably guiding the audience’s eyes towards the right places at the right time. The editing is edgy and ruthless, enhancing the movie’s sense of urgency and ultimately making each scenario as gripping and suspenseful as the previous one, leaving you breathless and impatiently awaiting the next – not an easy feat.
The script by Barry Levy is ambitious and although slightly uneven, works efficiently. It effectively handles its multitude of characters, giving each one enough depth and dimension without ever slanting into stereotypes. Moreover it chooses to show rather than say what is going on, thus allowing the story to gradually lead the audience towards its climax without clumsy explanations or bulky stating of facts compromising the film’s pace. For example, the first time the audience is shown the attack is through the eyes of a television news director (Weaver) in the control room. You witness the various cameras covering different angles of the event, and Weaver carefully picking her images and which side of the story she chooses to tell. A parallel is immediately felt between the news director and her control room and the movie director and his audience. Subtly, through Weaver’s character, the audience is explained how the story will unfold; how with each different angle of the story told, a little more of the plot’s tightly weaved web will be unraveled. Such instances are when Levy’s script works at its best. On the other hand, whenever Levy indulges into writing leftist political dialogue, the quality of the script plunges, as his words come off as being condescending, hammering and simply obvious. Thankfully, those scenes are easily dismissible, and the actors spouting those few clumsy lines work wonders with them.
The cast of this movie is simply outstanding. Quaid’s physically and emotionally scarred bodyguard is gripping, Whitaker’s sensitive bystander is touching and Hurt’s take on the president is skillfully nuanced. The supporting cast including Edgar Ramirez (Domino; The Bourne Ultimatum), Spanish superstar Eduardo Noriega (Open Your Eyes; The Devil’s Backbone) and Said Taghmaoui (The Kite Runner) is extremely strong; each thespian delivering a stunning performance. On the other hand, Matthew Fox seems uninspired as a bodyguard and Weaver gives a sometimes over-the-top performance, though in her defense, she is not given much to work with. Overall though, Vantage Point’s plethora of great performances elevates this film to a level far beyond its script, transforming what is initially a good movie, into a great one.
Vantage Point is skillfully directed, wonderfully acted, wittily written and far exceeds what it stands out to accomplish. It succeeds as a great action movie, a compelling edge-of-your-seat thriller and mindless entertainment with a hint of realism for all audiences to enjoy. No matter which vantage point you’re looking at this movie from, it’s definitely worth your time.
Review by Ralph Arida