Fri, Feb 29, 2008 - Page 16 News List

What' sthe point?

Going back and forth in time to tell the same story from different perspectives has worked in the past ('Rashomon,' 'Before the Devil Knows You're Dead'), but not here

By Manohla Dargis  /  NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE, NEW YORK

Too many perspectives and a fractured time line clutter this assassination story that had very little going for it in the first place.

PHOTO: COURTESY OF SON

Vantage Point, a gimmick in search of a point, is nothing if not, er, timely. Set in the picturesque Spanish city of Salamanca (otherwise known as Mexico City), this jigsaw puzzle exploits a repellent conceit - the shooting of an American president (William Hurt, effectively insincere) - in a vague attempt to explore questions of narrative and subjectivity (like Rashomon) through the box-office-friendly form of a thriller (like the Bourne flicks). Instead of pushing the story forward, the filmmakers instead repeatedly return to the crime, or rather to a handful of witnesses, all of whom saw the same exact event from critically different angles.

Vantage Point, a gimmick in search of its own point, is nothing if not, er, timely. Set mostly in a Spanish city, it has been given a hard sheen by the director Pete Travis, working from a screenplay by Barry Levy. This is competent if completely impersonal filmmaking of a familiar type that finds the usual allotment of famous, or at least famous enough, actors - Dennis Quaid, Forest Whitaker, Matthew Fox and Sigourney Weaver - arranged in various configurations in assorted spaces and delivering instantly forgettable dialogue. What does register: a slimmed-down Whitaker looks as sleek as an otter, Fox is probably best cast to nice type, and Weaver seems too big for her small bit as a television producer.

Vantage Point, a gimmick in search of its own point, is nothing if not untimely. This is less a matter of topicality (this is, of course, a presidential election year) than a problem of timing, in other words pacing, narrative flow, direction. In Rashomon, Kurosawa gives you four versions of the same incident and does so brilliantly. Here we get so many versions and viewpoints that a preview audience started to complain audibly each time the clock was reset, though this probably had less to do with the fractured storytelling than its lack of brilliance. In truth, with Rashomon, you really get five versions of the same anecdote because the most important belongs to the filmmaker, a vantage point that's missing from this newer work.

Film Notes

VANTAGE POINT

DIRECTED BY: Pete Travis

STARRING: Dennis Quaid (Barnes), Matthew Fox (Taylor), Forest Whitaker (Howard Lewis), Edgar Ramirez (Javier), Ayelet Zurer (Veronica), Sigourney Weaver (Rex Brooks), William Hurt (President Ashton)

RUNNING TIME: 90 MINUTES

TAIWAN RELEASE:

Currently showing


Vantage Point - well, you get the point.

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