Vantage Point gives us just that--a birds-eyed view of an assassination/terrorist attack on the U.S. president. In Spain at a landmark outdoor summit on the global war on terror President Ashton (William Hurt) is shot and a bomb explodes killing hundreds of people. For the rest of the film we see the same 15 minutes over and over but from different points of view: There’s a CNN-like news producer (Sigourney Weaver) who is the first to witness the events; the Secret Service agents (Dennis Quaid and Matthew Fox) assigned to protect the president; an American tourist (Forest Whitaker) videotaping the historic event; a Spanish cop (Eduardo Noriega) who suspects what’s going down by the surreptitious actions of his girlfriend (Ayelet Zurer) at the rally; and most importantly the head terrorist (Said Taghmaoui) who orchestrates it all. Through each of these individual perspectives we learn the truth behind the assassination attempt--and as far-fetched as it is it still isn’t pretty. This is an all-out action thriller folks--quiet subtle performances are not required. Quaid goes full blast as the veteran Secret Service agent who has already taken a bullet for the president once before and is still a bit skittish about it. But his loyalty to the president never wavers and it’s through his determination to find out what happened that propels the story forward. Fox also plays it to the hilt much like he does as Jack on TV’s Lost but the actor has a certain movie-star quality to him; he could easily transition from TV to film. Whitaker unfortunately has to play the big schlub with a heart--which at this point seems a tad beneath the Oscar-winner--but he still gives it his all. Hurt’s Head of State is another one of those dream presidents we wish we had. Taghmaoui (The Kite Runner) and Zurer (28 Weeks Later) are adequately cold-hearted as the terrorists while Edgar Ramirez (Domino) effectively emotes as a reluctant member of the terrorist cell forced to do their bidding while his brother is being held captive. Did we mention that the terrorists were cold-hearted? Right. Vantage Point’s trio of film editors (Stuart Baird Sigvaldi J. Karason Valdis Oskarsdottir) must have either thought they’d died and gone to heaven or hell depending on how much of a pain it was to cut the film. Whatever the scenario together with newbie director Peter Travis they keep the action taut and suspenseful. Each character’s POV lends itself to more information as the plot unfolds piece by piece culminating with a whopper of a car-chase scene that should leave you clenching your teeth. The use of electronic devices in the attack is also noteworthy as the main terrorist basically accesses his PDA to 1) shoot the president 2) explode bombs and 3) send the pictures of the destruction to all his friends. OK he actually doesn’t do that last part but he certainly could with that handy device of his. The only drawback to the whole scenario is the implausibility of it all--and the lack of back story. Suspending disbelief we can do but in Vantage Point’s case a little explaining would have helped.
We knew Gil Bellows was leaving "Ally McBeal." We knew his character had a brain tumor (as diagnosed last week). And maybe we'd even read that he (the character) was going to exit the show by, you know, kicking the bucket. But did we know he was going to drop dead last night?
Not all of us, apparently.
The Internet is reeling today with debate over the death of "Ally McBeal" lawyer Billy Alan Thomas, who in Monday's episode gave new meaning to the term "closing argument," passing away in court, felled by a cerebral hemorrhage entirely unrelated to that brain-tumor thing.
In a post entitled "Good Lord He Died," one fan on the alt.tv.ally-mcbeal newsgroup writes: "I CANNOT believe it! I was totally unprepared for it ... Was there any spoiler that predicted this?"
The consensus among Netizens is, yes, there were spoilers all over the Net -- fueled by media, and specifically tabloid, reports that nailed the Billy-dying-in-court scene (minus the cerebral hemorrhage detail). Some even complained chatty talk-show host Rosie O'Donnell spilled the beans on her morning show.
But the timing -- killing Billy in March, as opposed to the usual last-episode-of-the-season-in-May routine -- appears to have been the wildcard.
"Ever since it had been written in the media that Gil was leaving and then it was leaked that it was a brain tumor and that he would die, I felt a little ripped off -- like, Damn, can't we have any surprises!!!! I, for one am glad that he died suddenly and they didn't do the expected," another "Ally" cyberfan writes in a post today.
While Bellows' character is out as a living, breathing member of the "Ally McBeal" ensemble, he's expected to hang around for a while in ghost form.
And joining the show next month: A new living, breathing male character as played by indie film star James LeGros.
IN OTHER "ALLY MCBEAL" NEWS: Planning to fly to Singapore to catch a rerun of that episode, first aired here last November, in which "Ally" stars Calista Flockhart and Lucy Liu do a liplock? Forget it. Government officials there have banned the installment on the grounds that it "centers around alternative sexual explorations." We're betting they're not big Madonna fans there, either.
DOCTOR IS OUT: Christopher Lloyd, not the "Taxi" star, but the guy who executive produces "Frasier," isn't going to be the guy who executive produces "Frasier" anymore. After seeing the hit NBC show through its first 168 episodes, Lloyd announced Monday he'll depart at the end of this -- the series' seventh -- season. No word on whether Lloyd finally intends to become the "Taxi" star.