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Vantage Point (8/10)

by Tony Medley

Don’t snicker at my “watch test,” because it has stood the test of time, you should pardon the expression. If I look at my watch a lot, the movie is no good. But if a movie ends and I haven’t looked at my watch once, it’s a winner. I never looked at my watch once during this 90-minute thriller.

Except for an ending that is so ridiculous it would compliment it to describe it as just ludicrous, this is an action-packed film about the attempted assassination of the President and finding the people responsible. Why director Pete Travis and writer Barry Levy used what they did at the climax to thwart the bad guys is beyond comprehension. After what has gone on throughout the entire movie, to think that this could happen is just beyond adequate words to describe.

Thomas Barnes (Dennis Quaid) is a Secret Service Agent who just a year ago took a bullet to save the life of President Ashton (William Hurt). He is going out again to Spain on a Presidential mission and everyone wonders how he will perform. He gets to show his mettle right out of the box as the President is shot and a bomb explodes.

One of the better trailers of recent years makes this look first rate, and it is, until the ending. Unfortunately, it was over-Rashomoned, with five or six flashbacks to show what led up to the assassination attempt through the POV of several of the characters. There are just too many flashbacks. The audience applauded at the end to show its appreciation, but there were snickers when the film flashed back for the fourth time. Enough is enough.

The filmmakers exhibit a backbone made of rubber bands. They never identify the terrorists as Islamic. They all look dark-skinned, but they could be Spanish. Their point in doing what they are doing is also never identified. But does anyone other than Islamic Jihadists today resort to mayhem through suicide bombers? I don’t remember Hollywood being afraid of identifying the bad guys as German and Japanese during WWII. Why are filmmakers today so reluctant to identify them for who they are?

Travis makes his feature film debut and I thought he did a very good job, even throwing in a car chase. Regular readers know what I think about car chases. Since “Bullitt” and “The French Connection” the only one who has been able to put together a good one has been Paul Greengrass in the two “Bourne” films he directed. Other than his, they are all ridiculously derivative. Travis, however, gives us a slam-bang car chase that, while it strains credulity to the breaking point, is still pretty well done, even though it does lead to the absurd climax.

February 23, 2008