MOVIE REVIEW: VANTAGE POINT

For my birthday, I did something I haven’t done for awhile and actually went to the movie theater. I had been intrigued by the promos for “Vantage Point.” It seemed like something up my alley – you know, fast-paced action thriller with lots of explosions, car chases, and people running around screaming into their forearms (you know, the secret service walkie talkie thingamajigs). I had a certain idea of what I would see as you usually do at the movies. I still haven’t decided if I’m disappointed.

The movie starts repeating the same events over and over and over again from different people’s perspectives. We’ve seen this done before, of course, but in this film it was so important they named it after the cinematic device. I wish they hadn’t done this quite so overtly; I think that’s where my hesitation in giving a positive review comes from.

The story was a good one, albeit a standard one. There was nothing new in the plot, really, and maybe that’s why they chose to try to be different. I think that was a mistake. People will come to this kind of movie because they like that it feels comfortable, as if we’ve seen it before. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel because the wheel still works. This movie would have worked – and maybe better – if they had just stuck with the best story.

The best story was about Dennis Quaid’s character, who had taken a bullet for the President previously and was just now back to work on the protection detail. He was bamboozled by his partner and manipulated to assist of the terrorists in their plan. His return from injury, his anxiety about being able to do his job, and the resulting superhuman efforts to prove to himself that he still had what it takes was compelling. I wish they had spent more time on it.

Instead they focused on several other characters and their stories – all to varying degrees of success. Forrest Whitaker, perhaps the actor of this generation – black, white, or purple, turned in a subtle powerhouse performance as the father who missed his family and went to Europe to cope. I was touched by the facial expressions he gave throughout his minimal time on screen; he is truly amazing.

The terrorists were boring and one dimensional and trying to make them into something more than that didn’t work. They should have kept them that way on purpose instead of trying to do more with them and giving less screen time to the wonderful acting by Quaid. I thought the interactions between the President and his staff were nice, and the story could have been told better in a conventional time line format by incorporating this part of the movie into the secret service agent story.

Overall, this was an ambitious movie that didn’t have to be. It would have worked better without the gimmick and more as an action picture. The spring needs a movie like this once in awhile to balance all the avant-garde “Other Boleyn Girls” and stupid “Step Up 2s” that we usually get.

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