So, you’ve decided to jump onto the Q&A reviews bandwagon?
Well, this simple template makes it easier to write a review. Plus it might help me graft something moderately entertaining onto Vantage Point.
Vantage Point? Isn’t that some mediocre and forgettable movie from a few years back? Why write about it now?
First of all, because the other day I got home after having a few beers and it was on TV, so I allowed inertia and the living room couch to get the better of me. My mistake. And second, because the President of the United States is kidnapped in the movie, and movies featuring kidnappings of the guy said to be the most powerful in the world are the rage among kids these days.
Not at all, but it appears that the Hollywood suits think so, given all the recent examples. I wouldn’t boast about being better than them in figuring out what ticks the teen market, but nowadays the word in the streets seems to be “dude! Have you seen this flick, dude? I forgot the title, it’s about the NAZIS conquering the MOON! Dude, it’s AWESOME! Like, it makes you THINK, but I… I can’t tell you more! Dude, you absolutely got to see it!!! Bacon, zombie, Game of Thrones, Sriracha!” I’ve overheard this same exact exhortation several times over the last few months, coming from three or four unrelated acne survivors. I assume they were talking about the movie Iron Sky. I give Western civilization ten more years.
You know, I read somewhere that Vantage Point tells its story from several overlapping viewpoints hence the title. So, I guess that approach serves to explore the contrast between subjective experience and objective reality; by confronting various incomplete and personal accounts of the same event and leaving the interpretation open to the viewer, he can attempt to mentally compose a semblance of a universal “truth” as to what really happened, just like the Kurosawa classic Rash-…
… -shhhhhhhut up. I’ll stab your neck if you so much as mention that film in this review. And Vantage Point doesn’t explore shit, because there are no conflicting viewpoints and most of them encompass the same central events, with each retelling adding only a couple of details. The story could have been easily told with a conventional narrative, cutting back and forth between the different characters and inserting a few well placed flashbacks. But no, it wastes twenty or thirty minutes of screen time repeating again and again and again what we’ve already seen. For the viewer is like being trapped in a Nietzschean Groundhog day, in which Bill Murray is condemned to repeat the exact same actions every day. Yet I somehow doubt the filmmakers here were thinking about the concept of eternal recurrence when they came up with their gimmick.
But hopefully the story is worth it.
There is a political summit in Salamanca, Spain. Several international leaders, including the President of the United States, are to congregate on a platform at the city’s Plaza Mayor. An enthusiastic crowd welcomes the participants, because common folks love to flock en masse to witness the political superstars they so admire taking a courageous stand against terrorism. (Maybe In America?) During the sole exciting scene in the entire movie, the POTUS is shot by an unseen sniper at the beginning of his speech and seconds later an explosion blows up the podium. Besides repeating this setup, the rest of the film alternates between bouts of boredom and idiocy as the terrorists follow their sneaky plans and American Secret Service agents run around Salamanca emptying their guns with no interference from local law enforcement.
Huh… sounds bad, but maybe a good cast can pull it off. Any famous thespians aboard?
Dennis Quaid plays one of the presidential bodyguards and he does a fine job. But Quaid’s presence in a theatrical release these days only signals that the movie will suck, regardless of what he can muster. Either he or his agent is an idiot, but anyway, fuck him: at this point any DTV “star” possesses more dignity than Quaid. Sigourney Weaver drops in for that short stretch at the beginning where it still seems like the movie might be OK and Forest Whitaker plays an American tourist who has to prove his heroism by rescuing a stupid child from the path of an oncoming ambulance. There’s also one Mr. William Hurt as the President of the U.S. of A., but I’ll get to him later.
You said “famous”, so I’m not exactly sure if Eduardo Noriega fits that description. See, for years Noriega has been the go-to leading man in Spanish thrillers, though nobody can really explain why. He was in Amenábar’s first two movies, sure, but it is painfully clear he wasn’t the secret ingredient to their success. He has but one facial expression, and his emoting is so plain and monotonous that I’ve never heard anybody panning nor praising him, surely because doing so would require a terrible strain on the brain just to remember his presence. I guess the producers couldn’t get Javier Bardem and had to ask for a suitable native, so Spanish central casting gave them Noriega. If they had checked the ‘PORN’ box in the application form they’d have been given Nacho Vidal, who at the very least would have been awake during the shooting, and would have provided the screenwriters with valuable pointers about transcontinental intrigues.
Is that a bad joke, or is there something else to it?
Months ago, Vidal and several high ranking Chinese diplomats were busted by the Spanish cops in a well publicized sting against an international money laundering network. Under examination, the alleged head of the network declared that he had never met Vidal or seen one of his films. That means the special attorney, for some reason (Spanish pride?), must have actually asked the man if he’d ever seen a Nacho Vidal porno. Anyway, a few days later Vidal and most of the suspects were released without bail and it turned out the police operation was a scheme to scare tax evaders into submitting to fiscal amnesty. And also, possibly, to distract the public opinion from the massive and ongoing corruption scandals of our current ruling party.
Oh, I get it. Are you implying that the bizarre affairs of that insignificant country of yours are more interesting than the plot of this movie? I don’t believe you because the film was advertised as a political thriller, and those are, like, brainy!
Once upon a time, they were. Unfortunately, it appears that the likes of Advise & Consent, All The President’s Men and The Stockholm Affair are never to be made again. Leaving aside a couple of snore-inducing exceptions, for the last two or three decades the label has been bestowed unto any film seemingly written by a retarded twin brother of Tom Clancy. I blame Mikhail Gorbachev. And Tom Clancy.
Come on… I venture the bad guys ensnared some poor guy into a Parallax-like conspiracy to play the Oswald. Usually there’s some pathos in such dramas.
Guess what. After the third of fourth retelling repeated the shooting and the explosion and advanced very little towards a resolution of the mystery, I turned off the TV and went to read on Wikipedia what I was missing. After confronting the plot summary, I had to watch the rest of the film after all to check its veracity with my own eyes.
There’s no sniper! I mean, there’s no one actually manning the rifle. The rifle is installed on some sort of mechanical contrivance behind an open window in front of the podium, and, posing as an innocent onlooker in the town square, the head terrorist uses his cell phone to point it and deliver the fatal bullets.
Oh, he also uses his smartphone to activate a fan that moves the curtains of a different window, so as to distract Quaid from the open one with the rifle. And probably to check some cat .gifs in between.
All right, all right, so… can you at least summarize the plan of the terrorists?
Certainly. First, they shoot the president, only that is a diversion. Yeah, shooting the frickin’ El Presidente De Los Estados Unidos in a foreign land, in front of thousands of people and TV cameras from all over the world, is a mere diversion to sneak a bomb under the stand and kill all the other world leaders and a shitload of bystanders. You have to credit these particular terrorists on their ambition. Only that is a diversion, too, to send a suicide bomber to explode in the hall of the hotel where the president was staying… but, you could never see this coming, that is also a diversion, to allow this super-assassin dude to infiltrate the hotel amid the confusion, kill with ease a bunch of bodyguards and a maid, and kidnap the real POTUS from his room.
Holy shit! So, the guy on the podium was… a body double?
Being played by a name actor and getting disposed within the first few minutes of the movie, it had to be, even if, why oh why, I kept hoping for a less obvious and moronic development. The Secret Service had ascertained the existence of a credible threat against the summit, so rather than alert the rest of participants to postpone it and concoct some excuse about the president having diarrhea or something, his advisers decide to pretend to go with the schedule by sending a lookalike. I’m sure the screenwriters intended to woo us with their presumed knowledge of the inside stuff: “Look, you can’t even begin to imagine how complex and deceitful the world of top level politics really is! Nothing is what it seems!” Instead, they came up with a twist that would have come off as clichéd in a 19th century serial and makes no sense whatsoever: “Hmmm, so there’s a serious threat… let’s send the double in case something happens, and if it does we’ll have saved the real president, albeit at the cost of destroying all his credibility among his peers and confirming by proxy every preposterous belief of the Infowars crowd. That’s reasonable!” It is not that I think a President of the U.S. would be above resorting to such ploys, it is that I don’t think he would be such an idiot.
Maybe it was intended as a knowing irony, so as to allow William Hurt a flash of his trademarked, condescending smile.
Maybe, for William Hurt, playing the actual president and watching the summit from his room, grouchily complains to his aides about the double not looking at all like him, despite the double being played by William Hurt with the same clothes and makeup. Oh, how funny! How clever, William Hurt! Save that one for an encore on the DVD extras!
What are the ideological motivations of the terrorists in orchestrating this awful rumpus? Or are they devoted to pull meaningless evil deeds just because they are, you know, terrorists?
Honestly, I don’t know. Maybe I was taking a leak while it was being explained, but the only hint I caught was that the head terrorist had brown skin. That sounds racist, but I’m sure it was decided with the best of intentions because otherwise a staunch liberal such as William Hurt wouldn’t lend his approval to this production. I know jack shit about Hurt’s political orientation, but somebody who perpetually sports a pious smirk such as his can only be a dreamy believer in the sanctity of the Democrats.
Why do you hate Hurt so much?
“Hate”? Are you kidding? It’s just that after witnessing his… compelling turn in A History of Violence, I can’t help but smile every time Hurt pops up in a movie, as if I was privy to a terrible secret of his. In a way, it’s the same as with this guy that is the editor of one of Spain’s foremost right wing newspapers: every time that he is doing his pundit routine on TV, I’m reminded that he was caught on tape cross-dressed and being sodomized by a prostitute. No, I haven’t seen the footage, and despite appearances to the contrary, the Spanish political scene is as dull and rage-inducing as anywhere else. I am quite certain, though, that Pedro J. Ramírez’s sex tape has been watched by far less people than A History of Violence.
Would you do me a kindness? Get to the ending.
As you wish… In a display of laziness not seen at least since The Glimmer Man, all the plot strands are made to converge at the same time and place. You have Noriega, whose role in this whole mess is as mysterious as his career, confronting the getaway car of the super-assassin under an overpass, and the Secret Service agent that is secretly a terrorist. Noriega is killed by the Super-Assassin, the Super-Assassin is killed by the Secret Terrorist, and the Secret Terrorist is killed by Quaid, who arrives on foot after crashing the Opel Corsa (don’t… ask) he previously hijacked to chase them. Meanwhile, the president has awoken from his drug-induced sleep and wrestles his captors inside their getaway ambulance, just as they are arriving at the overpass, and just as that fucking child decides it’s the best possible time to step in the middle of the road. Whitaker saves the kid, the ambulance rolls over, Quaid shoots the Head Terrorist, and the hundreds of lives shattered in the course of the day don’t matter at all because, hey, El Presidente is safe and Whitaker got his shot at glory or redemption or whatever.
The population of Salamanca is roughly that of Macon, Georgia. Ass-kicking presidents shouldn’t be allowed outside the context of an Albert Pyun production. And somebody else please confirm that Iron sky indeed sucks.