Misses the bulls-eye
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