Vantage Point is chock full of totally implausible character connections and plot points, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. It is tightly edited. It never really slows down. It is like a 2-hour long-distance sprint.
A plot to kill the president of the United States is split into half a dozen perspectives, and the film explores one perspective at a time, rolling back the clock for each new section in order to revisit the same events from different angles. At least, that was the idea. As the film moves on, it looses its grip on the ability to stick with any one Vantage Point. This is no Rashomon or Courage Under Fire (both of which examined wildly varying perspectives and individualized memories of shared events). The psychological landscapes of the characters in this film are pretty barren. Capital-T Truth is not a relative phenomena in Vantage Point. There are no question marks left by the time the credits roll, which is satisfying, in its own way.
The film baits you with some half-revealed information at the end of each section, and makes you wait for future sections to find out a little bit more. In fact, several of these sections cut away at ridiculous moments, like commercial breaks, that recall cheap television cliffhanging strategies, as if to make sure you don’t click over to some other station. This is a thriller that uses different perspectives merely as a device to withhold and then reveal information. Eventually, the movie becomes a familiar thriller/action movie with all vantage points given at once. And I have to say, it does an excellent job at that level.
In fact, for what it was, it was a hoot: high energy, intense acting, the promise revelation, and the unveiling of an impressively devised plot to assassinate the president.
If only Sigourney Weaver had been given more screen time. The film begins with her producing a live newscast of a U.S. and Arab peace summit in Spain. She manages 5 or 6 cameramen who are filming live, telling them where to shoot and where not to shoot given the scope of the story they have decided to create for the public. (Don’t focus on the protests outside the crowded square where the president plans to speak. Don’t focus on the surprise return of the famous FBI agent (Dennis Quaid) who was recently shot while protecting the president.) Sigourney Weaver’s character is an intimidating, domineering presence who keeps the newscasters and cameramen from being distracted by the other potential stories happening all around them.
But it is less than 10 minutes into the film before catastrophic events unfold which dis-empower Weaver’s character, and reveal the narrow, bland, impotent perspective that the media has to offer. She looks utterly devastated when violent events begin to unfold, as much because of the horror of what she is seeing as because of her complete loss of control over the news machine she is trying to operate.
I wondered what the film would have been like had the media played a slightly larger role in interpreting the events of the film. But maybe it would have been a huge mess in a film that already teeters on the brink of chaos. Still, Weaver’s character might have had an interesting progression if there were more “untelevisable” events for her to try and juggle, or more pieces to a puzzle she would never be able to complete.
But there is already enough for us to attempt to follow in this fast-paced film. The movie takes off from that opening sequence in the news room, and empowers the viewer with the perspective of a handful of characters that, when added up, when sewn together, make a tightly woven and surprisingly (unfortunately) seamless whole.