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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Vantage Point (review)

Pay No Attention…

Oh my God it’s like 24 on speed. 24 on acid. It’s insane, and preposterous, yet not unentertaining, in its own uniquely goofy and ridiculous way. It’s 24 Minutes, seriously: it’s the same 24 minutes during which the President of the United States gets shot at a public summit thingie in Spain and there’s multiple terrorist bombings and people run around chasing bad guys or being bad guys or rescuing little girls from the bad guys or rescuing the President of the United States from bad guys. It’s the same 24 minutes over and over again from the perspectives of different people — witnesses and participants in the event — and they all “see” things and “know” things they couldn’t possibly see or know, and you almost don’t care, because it’s so crazy nutty you can almost believe the world isn’t really scared shitless this could really happen. Which is kinda nice, in a weird way. Like we can still make absurd cartoonish movies about the world falling apart around us even as, you know, the world falls apart around us.
It starts with Sigourney Weaver’s (Happily N’Ever After, Infamous) bitch-on-wheels cable network news producer — and you know what a hoot she is as the bitch on wheels — sitting in her mobile control room watching the horror: the made-for-a-nonsensical-political-thriller horror, all oh-my-god-the-President’s-been-shot horror. And then it switches to Dennis Quaid’s (American Dreamz, Flight of the Phoenix) Secret Service agent guarding the President, and then it switches to Forest Whitaker’s (The Great Debaters, The Last King of Scotland) tourist pulling a Zapruder with a camcorder, and so on, and so on. And you almost can’t believe how silly TV guys director Pete Travis and screenwriter Barry Levy are trying to get, with Quaid’s having taken a bullet for the President a year ago and being all messed up with it, and Whitaker’s having gotten divorced and missing his kids and all messed up with it, and etc., etc. Like you gotta say to yourself, “They’re really going there? Well, okay, then.”

But what you really wanna be saying to yourself, all seriouslike, is something along the lines of, “Well, see, no, this is how we analyze these things, when cultural disaster strikes. We watch them over and over again from different angles, we try to figure out what it all means, we try to de-conspiracy-theory-ize ourselves from a society-wide mindset that cannot help but embrace conspiracy theories, we try to make some logical sense of it.” But Vantage Point, is all, No, haha, you silly thing. It’s all crazy conspiracies and swarthy terrorists! Look! A European car chase! Tiny cars! on cobblestone streets! crashing through quaint sidewalks cafes! Hilarious!

And, okay, I’m sorry, but William Hurt (Into the Wild, Mr. Brooks), as the President what gets shot, is, at almost 60, still so totally hot. I mean, yes, Dennis Quaid is yummy and all, but Hurt is where it’s at. For me, at least. Though it’s also totally adorable how that guy from Lost here is acting like he’s gonna have a career after that show is done. If you can’t guess exactly where his “character” here is going from, like, the posters for the movie, from, like, the fact that he’s here at all, then your Official Moviegoers Card should be revoked, like, now.

So that’s what Vantage Point is: it’s the movie version of itself. It’s not about what it’s pretending to be about — getting you all caught up in trying to figure out whodunnit and why and how — but about watching all the strings and all the smoke and mirrors. For all the unbelievable plot twists, for all the bits of cheating to get people in the right place at the right time to witness things they couldn’t possibly witness except if they were pawns in a ludicrous Hollywood movie, for all the stupid things people do in order to keep things clipping along, for all the farcically outrageous coincidences, it kinda doesn’t matter. Because those are features, not bugs. It’s so sweetly kooky and old-fashioned of the movie to distract us from reality this way.

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MPAA: rated PG-13 for sequences of intense violence and action, some disturbing images and brief strong language

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb
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  • I saw this movie yesterday and loved it, just because it was so much fun. I sort of want to see it again, just to see if it holds up under a second viewing when I already know what’s coming and so am not distracted by that, but I suspect the answer would be, “Oh, nope, that doesn’t make any sense,” so I probably won’t.

  • Brad

    MaryAnn, thanks again for being one of the few movie critics who puts what I think to words better than I could. If that makes sense. There’s just something awesome about a movie this ludicrous, with a plot this meticulously split-second, and personally I’d give it a green light, but that’d probably be irresponsible of me.

  • tim

    I thought it was a solid “SEE IT”.

    For one thing it is always refreshing to see a film inhabited by mature adult actors. No 20-something hipsters loaded with irony, ego, and coolness. This is the kind of adult action movie that I think Hitchcock would appreciate if he was still alive.

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