Saturday, 19 April 2008

vantage point (d. pete travis, w. barry levy)

I should confess to the state of my brain as I attempt to review this movie. I had 3 hours sleep on a transatlantic flight last night and I'm desperately trying to stay awake for the arrival of a plumber who's coming to fix the leak that sprung in my absence. It's 10.30 on a Saturday night, I need a bath which I cannot have and a bed which remains out of reach, and I've spent the vast majority of the past 24 hours staring out of windows at a world slipping by.

Which might be not the perfect state of mind for getting to grips with the memory of the film I saw a couple of weeks ago, or then again it might be the perfect state of mind. We shall see. If this piece should end with an explosion in twenty minutes, then repeat the event six times or so from different perspectives, then give up the ghost altogether and ramble incoherently towards a feelgood finale, it shall have been the ideal state of mind.

Vantage Point takes the same event - the assassination of a US president - and repeats that event from several different perspectives. Or vantage points. Immediately there's the shadow of the ticking clock of 24 rattling in the background. The event takes about 20 minutes to unfold. (We know this because the first vantage point is that of a TV news production team following the event 'live'). We see it from the good guy's perspective, the bad guy's perspective, the bystander's perspective, the president's perspective, the global perspective. The explosion retains an almost intimate decibel level, but every time it occurs its savagery is diminished, and it comes as no surprise to learn that it wasn't really President William Hurt up on that stage, but some poor sap, along with lots of other poor sap heads of state.

However, having revealed this final piece of perspective, the filmmakers clearly found themselves stuck. They needed to get beyond the twenty minutes, to reveal the President's fate and inevitable salvation. At which point, narrative discipline and structural ingenuity are just plain superfluous. William Hurt, at his most oleaginous, needs saving, structure comes second. The creators were no doubt hoping that with the discipline of all those taut twenty minutes sections they'd bought themselves a little slack. But a hammy ending is always going to be a hammy ending, and if it's super hammy and lasts for longer than twenty minutes and trashes all the work that's gone before, all its going to end up doing is reveal the paucity of the material in the first place.

The plumber's still not here and I feel as though I'm in danger of recreating the movie, so before my conclusion ambles towards a predictable, bland, neo-heroic, bathetic conclusion, I'll stop. Ending not with a bang! but a whimper.

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