Review by Jack Foley
THE gritty, realistic style of the Bourne movies provides the obvious inspiration for Vantage Point, a lean, enjoyable political thriller that’s only undone by a sloppy ending.
Emerging British director Pete Travis, who actually worked with Paul Greengrass on Omagh, injects the same kind of no-nonsense approach to storytelling with his first big American movie – carefully balancing a tightly wound plot around some raw, unfussy action.
He also employs a top-notch cast who each contribute to the impressive nature of the first two thirds of the movie.
The President of the United States (William Hurt) is in Spain to deliver a major address on terrorism. As he approaches the podium in a crowded square, shots ring out and pandemonium breaks loose. The president falls to the ground. Moments later, a bomb goes off…
The above events unfold from eight different perspectives, each time revealing a little more about the people involved and the plot behind the assassination attempt. These include the Secret Service men assigned to protect the president (Dennis Quaid and Matthew Fox), the news crews watching (headed by Sigourney Weaver), an American tourist caught in the crowd (Forest Whitaker) and the various terrorists plotting the whole thing (including Eduardo Noriega and Saïd Taghmaoui).
The most intriguing aspect of Vantage Point is the way in which Travis carefully constructs each short story and manages to top them off with a cliff-hanger ending, revealing a little bit more of the overall picture with each sleight of hand. Hence, what could have become a tedious Roshomon-style series of repeats is enlivened by the different spin placed on each re-telling.
The tension, too, is nicely sustained throughout, comparing favourably with the breathless pacing of the Bourne movies and the twist-heavy plotlines of real-time television series 24.
And it helps that the director is surrounded by such a quality cast, with the likes of Dennis Quaid, William Hurt, Forest Whitaker and Eduardo Noriega making the most of what limited time they’re each given.
Unfortunately, Barry Levy’s screenplay can’t deliver the killer ending the movie deserves and the film comes to a disappointingly ‘neat’ conclusion that almost undermines the good work and quality plot twists that have come before.
Travis tries to compensate with a rousing car chase that – again – is evocative of the Bourne movies as well as Ronin but even then places undue strain on the realism and credibility he has strived so hard to create.
Vantage Point remains worth seeing for conspiracy theory enthusiasts and fans of political thrillers alike. But as with so many of these kinds of movies, the thrill is in the chase rather than the delivering of any justice. Travis, though, looks to have an extremely bright future ahead of him.
Running time: 90mins
UK DVD Release: August 4, 2008
- Buy it on DVD (Amazon)
- Buy it on Blu-ray (Amazon)
- Read our review
- Matthew Fox interview
- Pete Travis (director) interview
- View the photo gallery