'Vantage Point' worth a second look

Reeling It In

Posted: Thursday, February 28, 2008

 

  'Vantage Point' Columbia Pictures 1 hour, 30 minutes Daniel Daza

'Vantage Point'

Columbia Pictures

1 hour, 30 minutes

Daniel Daza

I remember a time when cellular phones were huge bulky things that you had to carry around in a bag, and were rarely seen outside of war movies and CIA sting operations. They certainly weren't the kind of thing you carried around in your pocket, much less into the movie theater.

Then again, I'm not really complaining. Cell phones have made for an entirely new paradigm when it comes to ease of communication, as well as a whole new element for the writers of thrillers to either solve for or utilize to sinister effect. I do carry my cell phone into the movie theater, even though my wife constantly tells me I should just leave it in the car. I guess I just can't get over the idea of "just in case." Had the story of "Evita" taken place today, rather than a sad little man stopping the projector and walking out in front of the audience to deliver the news of the heroine's death, you would have had an entire auditorium of cell phones lighting up simultaneously.

This all leads up to the fact that while watching this week's action-thriller "Vantage Point," I did indeed have my cell phone, and did indeed receive an important call that I had to take (everything's fine, don't worry). Unfortunately, however, while the movie's trailer boasts of a film that shows you the story from "8 Different Vantage Points!" I only got to see, maybe three-and-a-half.

Actually, most of the action in the movie takes place over a period of only about 20 minutes so, in one sense, I did see everything, but it's the looking closer, the twistyness of what you see that makes this movie clever. An event seen through one character's eyes looks completely different from other, wider perspectives. In that sense, "Vantage Point" appears to be a very clever movie.

Here's a quick rundown of what I saw (three-and-a-half times, no less): The President of the United States is about to give a big speech in Spain. A large crowd of people are crammed into a town square surrounded by buildings. Suddenly, shots ring out and the President falls. Shortly thereafter, a loud bang is heard outside the walls of the square, and ultimately a bomb is detonated under the stage at the head of the now panicked throng. Did someone see the shooter? Who are the Secret Service loading into the ambulance? Who's that they're chasing? Who is that guy? Wasn't he with the other guys? What the hell is going on?

Some of the preceding questions are ones the movie prompts you to ask. The others are the questions I asked after returning to the theatre after my phone call, much to the irritation of my companions, I'm sure.

Needless to say, I can't really give "Vantage Point" a truly fair critique after seeing only half the movie. What I did see was intriguing, and there seemed to be some fairly good action and a few nice twists and turns that you won't see coming especially if you skip the middle of the film.

One complaint, however, was the cumbersome nature of the film's transitions. The idea of different vantage points is taken literally. You see the action from one character's perspective, then another, and then another, until things all start to blur together at the end. But until they start to blur, the method the filmmakers choose to indicate the change of "vantage" is by way of a rewind effect. This is kind of cool the first time, but after two or three it begins to feel clunky and repetitive.

There may be other problems with the film. The whole middle of the movie could be filled with sappy musical numbers or the dialogue could all be in Mandarin Chinese. I just don't know, so I'll be watching the movie again. And maybe that's as good a recommendation as any. If I'm willing to plunk down another $7.50 to see how the characters on foot when I left the theater ended up in a major car chase by the time I got back, there must be something to this movie.

The other big movie news of the week is, of course, the Oscars. There were no really big surprises here, other than that the show clipped along pretty well and wasn't too overburdened by self-love. Jon Stewart kept everyone from taking themselves too seriously, which is nice, especially considering how serious the major nominees are. The Best Picture nominees were about murder, betrayal, greed, and insanity; "Thank goodness for teen pregnancy!" Stewart quipped, noting that "Juno," the only feel-good movie on the slate, dealt with some big issues of its own.

In the end, "No Country for Old Men," one of the best movies I've seen in a long time, walked away with the much deserved prize. It's only too bad that "No Country" and "There Will Be Blood" had to come out in the same year. Without such stiff competition from the Coen Brothers, the amazing "Blood" would have walked out with an armful.

Oh well, if a glut of good movies is all I have to complain about, then ... oops, there's my cell ... I better take that ...

"Vantage Point" is rated PG-13 for language and violence.



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