Wednesday 26th January 2022

Vantage Point (12A)
Directed by: Pete Travis
Reviewed by: James Smith

Some films come with a great concept and execute them perfectly such as The Usual Suspects and Memento, while others only come with the great concept. This is unfortunately in the second category: an assassination attempt by a group of terrorists on the President of the United States is shown six times, each with a different character as the central focus.

"And if there were any snipers out there, I'd say take your best shot!"
"And if there were any snipers out there, I'd say take your best shot!"

It starts with the television producers recording the event and then moves through various other parties including the chief bodyguard, the principal suspect, the innocent bystander and the terrorists themselves. Each time we are left with a tantalising cliff-hanger (that is then resolved in the next segment) before being rewound back to the minute before midday. This is the great concept and it works well the first two or three times. However, by the fourth time through the story, the film is flagging, as is the audience, and the film begins to resort to increasingly absurd twists and eventually action movie clichés including a car chase through the crowded streets of Salamanca and a seemingly invulnerable hero.

I have seen the film described several times as "Rashomon-esque", which is shorthand for saying that the same events are shown several times from different points of view. However, Vantage Point differs from the Rashomon concept in one major aspect – in Rashomon the central event is told by different characters and hence each telling is subjective and the various versions are contradictory; the full story has to be discerned from the lies and half-truths of each of the characters. By contrast, in this movie each version is objective, simply telling the story from a different "vantage point" in the crowd. The only contradictions that arise come from the poor continuity between the stories - I am not convinced that the timing of events is consistent, and some characters seem to move from location to location either far too quickly or far too slowly depending on which segment of the film we are in.

A far better comparison, in my opinion, is the first season of the television series 24. Both have a simple and intriguing concept which starts off well, but both eventually resort to more and more outrageous and unrealistic cliff-hangers, twists and action sequences as the early good work is lost and forgotten. There are other amusing superficial similarities too, such as both involving attempts on the life of POTUS (if you don't know what POTUS is, start watching The West Wing now - Ed) and both prominently featuring a ticking clock. At least in the film we only have to sit through ninety minutes rather than 24 episodes to find out the ending.

This should not completely deter you from seeing the film. It does feature a few fun performances from the likes of William Hurt (A History of Violence), Dennis Quaid (The Day After Tomorrow), Forrest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland) and Lost star Matthew Fox. There are plenty of surprises even before they start getting silly and the body count is so high that you can never be quite sure which characters will make it to the end. Also, different approaches to storytelling on film should be encouraged, especially amongst Hollywood blockbusters – at least this tries to be different and, while it fails, that shouldn't be totally held against it.

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Length: 90 minutes
Certificate: 12A
Official Site:
IMDB Link:
Release Date: 7th March 2008

Top Five Rating: 50.0%50.0%50.0%50.0%50.0%50.0%50.0%50.0%50.0%50.0% (50.0%)
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