Do you have any movies that, even though you fully intended to see them when they came out, you just didn’t? I’m talking about a movie you really were excited to see but, for one reason or another, you just weren’t able to and then you just forgot all about it. Then, years later, you come across the chance to watch that very same film at the touch of a button. You become very excited to watch it so you plop down on your favorite chair, grab a bag of popcorn and prepare yourself to be entertained for an hour or so… only to be disappointed by what a letdown the film actually was.
This is the very same experience I had when I saw Netflix had the 2008 political thriller Vantage Point available to stream on Netflix.
Before I do proceed to the actual review, I will be giving you advanced warning that this will be a SPOILER FILLED review. First off, Vantage Point is a rather old film; it’s been out for more than a decade and, even if it’s not exactly one of the most popular films out there, those familiar with it should already know about the general plot and twists involved. Second, one of my biggest issues with the film deals with the actual story, character motivations and, well, the failure of the gimmick the movie uses. So, SPOILERS!
Vantage Point is, at its essence, a film about an assassination plot against the President of the United States. At a terrorism summit in Spain, the President is shot by an unknown assailant as he was about to give his speech. A manhunt is launched at that very moment to find the assassin. While the basic premise of the film isn’t all that unique as we’ve seen it told a hundred times before, the way Vantage Point is supposed to the tell the story is. The plot unfolds through the perspective of various people involved in the incident. This would include a veteran Secret Service agent (played by Dennis Quaid), a United States tourist (played by Forest Whitaker) who may have filmed the actual act, a Spanish police officer who knows more than he should, the news director who’s trying to hold it all together during the panic and even the President of the United States himself!
The overall premise is indeed intriguing, which is the reason why I wanted to watch it in theaters all the way back in 2008. The idea of not getting the entire picture immediately as things unfold was really interesting to me. The promise of seeing the same event and not getting all the information and seeing the same scene from a different point of view is a great hook. Vantage Point doesn’t completely deliver on its promise, sadly. It does try to as, to be fair, it does use the central gimmick for the majority of the film.
Unfortunately, the film just could not keep up with the entire “changing perspective” schtick and abandons it during the final act. It starts off as if they were trying to provide the point of view of one of the terrorists but it turns out they were just showing the entire terrorist group’s viewpoint. It’s at this point Vantage Point practically gives up on the gimmick and becomes a standard action movie.
Another issue I have with the film is that, because we do get to see the film through the eyes of specific people at specific times, there are some characters who are never fully fleshed out and there are plot points that are never resolved. The only character who we actually get to know is Dennis Quaid’s Secret Service character as he’s given some backstory as well as the most screentime. Even then, I can’t remember a whole lot about him; I can’t even remember the character’s name! There are even some characters who never get a satisfying conclusion, such as Zoe Saldana’s reporter character, who dies during the bombing. Although she’s not one of the main characters, she’s given a solid amount of time at the start of the film but, after she dies, it’s like we’re not supposed to care for her anymore, despite the film trying to give her some character moments. I mean, they seem to be making her death a big thing but it’s never mentioned afterwards.
As we never really get to know the characters, there are also a lot of times when their actions aren’t all that logical. There’s the Spanish cop who gives a bag to his girlfriend and he seemingly knows the bag contains explosives. Yet he still tries to warn people about the bomb? Makes me wonder if he had a change of heart or something but it’s never really explained. The one that really stands out is Forest Whitaker’s tourist character as he does a lot of things that just did not make sense. I can accept he was helping to help a lost girl he just met after the bombing took place. I can even take him trying to assist the Secret Service by giving them the footage he was recording during the shooting. But I cannot fathom as to why he would “help” by running after someone who was being chased by the police!
The acting in Vantage Point also isn’t all that good. Dennis Quaid and Matthew Fox are okay but they really don’t have much to do than act all serious. William Hurt is fine but he really doesn’t have enough screen time to screw up. The Spanish cop and his love interest feel like they’re in a soap opera as they both act so hokey. The most disappointing performance is, strangely enough, multi-award winner Forest Whitaker. He just was just an “aw, shucks” nice guy and it actually led me to believe he was one of the terrorists at the start.
Speaking of the terrorists, I do have to talk about the “big twist” of Vantage Point. And that would be Matthew Fox, one of the President’s Secret Service agents actually working for the terrorists. They really bungled this one, not because Matthew Fox didn’t play a convincing bad guy. Rather, this was a huge missed opportunity because they could’ve shown the events from his vantage point! Instead, he was just lumped together during the portion when the terrorists launched their plan. It would have been a great shock if we thought he was one of the good guys, going through the building where the shots came from with other agents, only for him to shoot them in the back, revealing him to be a baddie. What a wasted opportunity!
By the way, the terrorists seemingly planned everything to the letter to execute their plan flawlessly! Not only did they set up a robot to shoot the man behind the podium and not only did they have a remote control to turn on the fan to flutter the curtains in a room to distract Dennis Quaid’s character, not only did they kidnap the brother of an expert soldier (instead of hiring one of their own) to get the President at the hotel since they knew they were going to use a body double, not only did they get the female terrorist to seduce the right Spanish police officer to give them explosives, they also managed to stash a police uniform for Matthew Fox’s character so he can escape! That’s some convoluted and expert planning right there! If only that darned little girl wasn’t there to foil their flawless plan!
If it looks like I’m being very harsh on Vantage Point, well, that’s because I am. I think the idea is sound and compelling. Unfortunately, the story wasn’t executed well. There are too many loose threads left hanging and plot conveniences to be believable. But there is definitely something underneath all of it that would make for an excellent and unique movie experience. Maybe if the script was written a couple more times, everything would be much tighter. But, as it is, I’m glad I didn’t go watch Vantage Point in 2008. That’s because I know I’ll be upset after watching it and realizing I spend good money on this.
Have you seen Vantage Point? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below!