Travis#039; Vantage Point: Rashomon for Dummies

by Beacon Staff • February 20, 2008

This is the latest popcorn-fare action flick to hit theatres, and it serves its purpose as an entertaining and engrossing action film, even though it is not a great or groundbreaking one.,Vantage Point, a drawn-out, multiple-perspective whodunit that goes back and forth between past and present, centers around an assassination that may or may not have happened.

This is the latest popcorn-fare action flick to hit theatres, and it serves its purpose as an entertaining and engrossing action film, even though it is not a great or groundbreaking one.

The President of the United States (William Hurt, who is refreshing and likable as a sensible leader) has been assassinated at a high-profile anti-terrorism world summit in Salamanca, Spain by a terrorist group.

Or so you think.

Rewind 23 minutes earlier and watch it again-this time following a different individual. Vantage Point makes a point of defying the traditional linear storyline in favor of flashing back and tracking another stranger who just happens to be a part of this complex web of a tale. It's a bold move, but it would have been more effective if it had been used more sparingly in the film.

As with any movie with multiple story lines, some of the actors are more appealing than others. Dennis Quaid plays bodyguard Thomas Barnes with very little depth or originality. Forest Whitaker is Howard Lewis, an American tourist in Spain who just happens to catch a key part of the assassination on videotape, but his character isn't always believable. Sigourney Weaver is a journalist intent on getting a specific story to her network, but her piece feels two-dimensional. However, Edgar Ramirez creates surprising sympathy as an assassin blackmailed into cooperating with the terrorists to save his hostage brother, as does Eduardo Noriega as a betrayed Spanish cop just trying to do his job amidst the chaos. Ramirez, Noriega and Hurt are easily the film's strongest actors, adding profundity with their performances.

The story's plot backtracks regularly. The key assassination sequence is repeated multiple times with the same 23-minute time frame, presumably to create tension and suspense as well as to give the audience time to piece together a fairly complicated puzzle. After the third time, however, the repetition becomes frustrating due to the fact that the audience is seeing virtually the same thing over again, but with one more detail.

Some of the storylines also seem overdone. A pouting little girl keeps managing to somehow get herself into perilous situations and then screams. Woven in the first tale is some forced dialogue about media angles and censorship that doesn't seem to fit with the rest of the film. Extra betrayals are thrown in just to reinforce how interlaced everyone really is.

The action sequences are the films strongest spots, providing some genuine tension to keep the movie lively and suspenseful. The camera is hand-held and shaky a la Paul Greengrass' Bourne films, and the movie's intense score amps up the adrenaline. Explosions, gunshots, kidnapping, panic and car chases abound and are fun to watch.

The film's main problem, along with its tiresome repetition, is that everything is too coincidental. The fact that everyone seems to have some crucial connection with one or more of the other important strangers strains credulity for the viewers. The film is jam-packed with too many meshing storylines for the "coincidence" to be believable. "Less is more" is a saying that the filmmakers should have taken into account to make the movie more plausible.

The film also lacks subtlety about the characters involved in each others' storylines-frequently, important people lock eyes and walk by each other in slow motion. It is as though the filmmakers are afraid that the audience will miss that new coincidence or won't make the connections themselves. Perhaps a few times it is justified, especially with the amount that the audience is expected to recognize and remember all of the many character interactions. The rest of the times, however, it just seems cheesy and condescending.