Sunday, February 24, 2008

"Vantage Point" - movie review

The basic premise of this movie is that when events happen, different people experience different parts of it and are privy to information others are not, and it's not until you get all of their viewpoints that you can get the full picture.

I really liked the way the story was presented, and I had not known beforehand the technique they would be using. The performances all around were very good, with special recognition for Dennis Quaid.

But the really spectacular part of the movie was in the editing. With the complicated (but definitely not convoluted) storytelling, you could easily screw this film up in the editing, but they did a great job. Hopefully, that will get remembered during next year's Oscars.

I would like to see this movie again so that I can catch things the second time around that I missed the first time, not knowing everything I know now, but I'll probably wait until the DVD comes out. The only downside for me is that there were a LOT of jumpy parts. Jumpy cameras in films does not sit well with me, and with one segment that's a POV from a hand-held camera, several footchases and car chases and lots of frenetic and chaotic action and lots of quick editing, there were parts that were difficult to watch for me. It wasn't as bad as "Cloverfield", but there were parts that I did have to watch with my peripheral vision rather than dead on.

It's definitely a movie that I recommend, and if you plan to see it later, stay away from all spoilers.

That being said, now we get to the spoiler section of the review. If you don't want to know spoilers, don't read any further, and I'm going to say here that spoilers are allowed in the comments area, so if you don't want spoilers, don't read there either.

No, seriously, stop now, because I'm going to post serious spoilers.

Yeah, really, serious, oh-my-gosh-I-can't-believe-that-happened spoilers.

OK, I'll mention the lighter spoilers first.

With regard to the storytelling technique, I had not know that they were going to tell the same segment of time from several viewpoints, in succession. (You could hear from some of the reaction in the audience that some people weren't happy with that device. I found it very interesting myself, much preferable to something like "Timecode" where you saw the same exact scene from about four different angles with split screen. Yeah, I love "24", but they don't usually do more than two or three angles. Four for the entire film is a *LOT* of work. But I digress.) First, you see the events from the general viewpoint of Quaid's character, as well as some peripheral stuff that happens with the camera crew, though that becomes important later. You can mark the time with various milestone events happening - the initial news broadcast, the motorcade, the speech, the president getting shot, the first explosion and then the second explosion. After each viewpoint is told to a certain point, they do a literal rewind to start the day over again, which happens to be at noon, from another person's point of view. As each person's story is told, you get a little bit more information, like the president isn't really dead because they used a body double, you find out where the first explosion came from, you find out how the second explosion came about, and you find out where the shots came from.

And then there's the major reveal - that even though one of the terrorists is a cameraman with the news channel and another is working at the hotel, the biggest mole is a Secret Service agent, played by Matthew Fox, who most people know from "Party of Five" or "Lost". In this case, it's the casting that really cements keeping the secret until it's finally revealed on screen. There is absolutely no indication prior to that point, when you realize that he was lying, but at the time, the lie seemed completely plausible. The choice to cast Fox makes it impossible to suspect that he's actually working for the terrorists, since you wouldn't expect him to play that kind of role. If the character was played by someone who was known for playing the bad guy or even someone fairly unknown, you wouldn't have that built-in trust that you do have with Fox. This is very similar to another film where an actor who generally played a good guy turned out to be the seriously evil guy in the film, and it was the same kind of thing where it was the casting that sold it. I'm not naming the film here since it would be a serious spoiler, but if you've seen it, you probably know which film I'm referring to.

After you've gotten several viewpoints, the action then merges back into the format of a regular linear telling of the story, which works quite well.

As far as story is concerned, there are a couple parts that I found a little bit hard to believe, particularly with regard to Quaid's character. Near the end of the film, he gets plowed into by another car and basically gets crunched against a wall, but he manages to climb out, completely unhurt, to pursue Fox. He later gets shot, but he seems to barely feel it or even show that he's been shot at all. The other story point I didn't care for was the Spanish police officer in plainclothes who apparently brought a duffle bag in because this woman he's hot for asked him to, but he NEVER BOTHERED TO CHECK WHAT WAS IN THE BAG. OK, yeah, she asked you to bring it, but you're going into a seriously high security zone, and you're being let through unchecked because you're a cop. No matter how much you trusted her and wanted to sleep with her, wouldn't you make sure you knew what was in the bag? Hmmm, I had no idea I was bringing a bomb into this mega-secure location. Yeah, dufus.

I did love that the fan was turned on via remote, not to mention the gun and the shots themselves. Very cool but seriously terrifying.

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