Misses the bulls-eye

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film Reviews - DON­ALD CLARKE

VAN­TAGE POINT Di­rected by Pete Travis. Star­ring Den­nis Quaid, Matthew Fox, For­est Whi­taker, Sigour­ney Weaver, William Hurt, Edgar Ramirez, Ed­uardo Nor­iega 12A cert, gen re­lease, 90 min

YOU CAN see what the stu­dio was think­ing. A few years back a bright spark caught a glimpse of some film about the North­ern Ir­ish trou­bles and reck­oned that the di­rec­tor might be able to do some­thing with the Bourne fran­chise. Sure enough, Paul Green­grass, the man be­hind Bloody Sun­day, man­aged to bring stag­ger­ing de­grees of oomph to those grip­ping spy films.

Now we are of­fered a dis­tinctly Bour­nian thriller – plenty of run­ning, plenty of speed­ing ve­hi­cles – from the di­rec­tor of Omagh. Never mind that Pete Travis’s fine TV film con­tained no ac­tion se­quences. It looked, from some an­gles, like a se­quel to Bloody Sun­day, and Pete has duly been de­clared wor­thy of shoul­der­ing the big mega­phone.

That Van­tage Point fails so mis­er­ably should not re­flect too badly on Travis. Barry Levy, the screen­writer, seems to have given up on his own project three­quar­ters of the way through.

What we have here is an at­tempt to tell the story of a pres­i­den­tial as­sas­si­na­tion from sev­eral dif­fer­ent view­points. Na­tional Lam­poon’s Trashô­mon be­gins with a news pro­ducer (Sigour­ney Weaver) coax­ing her staff through their cov­er­age of a visit by the chief ex­ec­u­tive (William Hurt) to an out­door event in his­toric Sala­manca.

Within mo­ments Pres­i­dent Hurt has been shot in the chest. Then, in fairly rapid suc­ces­sion, two bombs go off – one sev­eral blocks away, the other be­neath the sur­viv­ing dig­ni­taries. The film rewinds and we view the events from the (ahem) van­tage point of se­cret ser­vice agent Den­nis Quaid. The film rewinds again and we get to see by­s­tander For­rest Whi­taker’s take on the as­sault. And so on.

Even­tu­ally this zip­ping be­tween perspectives be­comes too ex­haust­ing for all con­cerned and – with a metaphor­i­cal throw­ing of hands in the air – the film set­tles down into a con­ven­tional, lin­ear nar­ra­tive. By then, how­ever, the story has be­come so hope­lessly mud­dled that no amount of au­to­mo­tive may­hem can re­store our at­ten­tion.

In­deed, the only dis­tin­guish­ing as­pect of the fi­nal act is a toe­curlingly awk­ward at­tempt to ad­dress cur­rent malaises in Amer­i­can for­eign pol­icy. Fol­low­ing the at­tack, a se­nior of­fi­cial ad­vises mil­i­tary ac­tion. “We have the world’s sym­pa­thy, right now,” a more sober voice replies. “Let’s hon­our that.” What can they be get­ting at?

Den­nis Quaid, Ed­uardo Nor­eiga and Richard T Jones in Van­tage Point

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