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Vantage Point (2008)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 7/1/2008

All Ratings out of

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 6/28/2008

In 1950, Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon was released and it changed the face of film forever. The movie told the story of a murder, but it added the unique twist of telling the story from three different points of view. So, we essentially see the same tale unfold three times, but in different ways. This approach has been used countless times since, and many film critics refer to this plot device as "Rashomon-like". Films such as Pulp Fiction use this to an extent, and the animated Hoodwinked! utilized it as well. But, few movies have had the nerve to actually repeat a plotline over and over emphasizing the discrepancies between stories like the newly released Vantage Point.

Vantage Point takes place in Salamanca, Spain, where United States President Ashton (William Hurt) is arriving to attend a peace summit. He is accompanied by Secret Service Agents Thomas Barnes (Dennis Quaid) and Kent Taylor (Matthew Fox). As the President enters the courtyard, we see Enrique (Eduardo Noriega) talking to Veronica (Ayelet Zurer), and both of them seem nervous. The President mounts the stage, and just as he's about to speak, he is shot twice. Then, a bomb goes off. All of this is witnessed by Howard Lewis (Forest Whitaker), who has been recording the event with his video camera. The television crew, lead by Rex (Sigourney Weaver), who has been presenting the event live is stunned by the violence. The story then rewinds to show how these characters came to arrive at this place, and with each storyline, we come closer to learning who wanted the President dead.

So, again, the Rashomon technique is one which is well-known amongst cinemaphiles and most people have seen it used in some form, even if they didn't realize what was happening. (Doesn't The Brady Bunch episode with the missing earring give several different versions of the same event in order to tell the story.) But, I'm willing to bet that few audience members had seen anything quite like Vantage Point. This movie had the audacity to actually rewind and start the story over again, but this time focusing on a different character. It does this several times throughout the 90 minute running time, as we witness how the characters got to the event, how they reacted to the violence, and what they did afterwards. Yes, the assassination and the explosion are shown over and over again.

So, it's easy to see how some viewers could be very confused or frustrated by this tactic. Judging by some of the on-line chatter that I've seen, some were even enraged by it. That's too bad, because once you grasp what Vantage Point is trying to do, you will be treated to a gripping thriller.

The whole idea behind Vantage Point is that seeing isn't always believing and that by viewing this story through several different eyes, we will gain the truth. The irony is that Vantage Point also pulls a fast one on the viewer. On the surface, the gimmick in Vantage Point is that it goes back and forth in time, allowing us to see how the various characters experienced the event. However, the real plot device is that at the end of each segment, we are given another piece of the puzzle and just as we are about to get a big answer, the film rewinds again. While the basic structure may have been taken from Rashomon, this technique reminded me of the Ramsey Campbell novel The Influence, where each chapter ends with a cliffhanger, and the following chapter then begins about five minutes earlier, but from a different character's point-of-view. This narrative device adds a nice amount of tension to Vantage Point, for as interested as we are in what each character is doing, we want the movie to give us that next kernel of knowledge so that we can discern what is happening.

Vantage Point marks the feature film debut of Director Pete Travis, who does a fine job of stitching the stories together. He also shows that he's quite adept at shooting action scenes, as the car chase scene is quite well done and I would put it right up there with those found in the Bourne films. He also gets a great deal of help from his international cast, all of whom are perfectly suited for their roles. It's especially great to see Spanish favorite Eduardo Noriega getting a sizable part in an American film.

Vantage Point is one of those films which is going to divide audiences. Not because of its content, or anything controversial, but because of how the story is told. Again, I can see how some people won't have the patience to make it through this film. Those who do will be treated to a political thriller which keeps the audience on edge and contains some great action scenes. The movie does lack in character development and Enrique's role in the events is a bit vague, but overall, I thought that Vantage Point was a blast, and I can't wait to see it again. Perhaps I'll sit in a different chair so that I'll see the story from another angle...

Vantage Point offers multiple viewings on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.40:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 22 Mbps. This is an excellent transfer, as the image is very sharp and clear. This is no obvious grain here and no defects from the source material. The clarity of the image produces a nice amount of detail and some serious depth. The colors look fantastic, especially the reds. The bulk of the film takes place outside during a sunny day, but the image is never overly bright and there is no video noise. The Disc offers a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 1.7 Mbps. This track provides clear dialogue and sound effects, with no distortion or hissing. The track really adds "oomph!" to the movie, as the gunshots and more importantly, the explosions really rock. The surround sound is very impressive when the crowd panics, and these scenes deliver nice stereo as well. The sound really delivers during the car chase -- when the cars zip by, the sound moves through the speakers. Overall, a very nice Blu-ray presentation.

The Vantage Point Blu-ray Disc brings us several bonus features. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Peter Travis. Here, Travis talks in detail about the film's structure and what it was like to put it together. He also talks about his cast, and the location shooting. "An Inside Perspective" (27 minutes) is a making-of featurette which offers interviews with the cast, the writer, the director, and the producer. It looks as the cast and characters, location shooting, and the production. Most of the discussion centers on the challenge on shooting around the script's structure. "Plotting an Assassination" (16 minutes) examines the film's structure and how the filmmakers attacked the puzzle. Screenwriter Levy and Travis do most of the talking here, as they explain how the characters and storylines were developed. "Coordinating Chaos" (7 minutes) examines the stuntwork in the film with stunt coordinator Spiro Razatos. "Surveillance Tapes" (1 minute) is a fake deleted scene with Director Travis. "Vantage Viewer: GPS Tracker" allows the viewer to watch the film which keeping track of all of the characters via a picture-in-picture window. Each of 8 characters is represented by a colored dot. This is certainly an interesting feature, but you wouldn't want to use it on your initial viewing.

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long