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.
Two adolescent buddies Flama (Daniel Miranda) and Moko (Diego Catano) are given incessant instructions by Flama's mom before she heads off to work. Don't go out don't let anyone in turn off the stove. When they're finally alone they jump on couch turn on their favorite video game and shoot bad guys. They order a pizza have a huge bottle of Coke and seem set for the day. That is until their 16-year-old neighbor Rita (Danny Perea) asks to use the stove to bake herself a birthday cake. Then their pizza guy Ulises (Enrique Arreola) refuses to leave after the guys refuse to pay. And the power goes out. By arguing debating and confessing this odd foursome discovers a lot about each other and themselves throughout the strange day. Incredible as it may seem the two boys have had no acting experience. They seem natural and content as we witness their private day talking through the subtext of their concerns and coming face-to-face with issues they've buried. Flama's parents are splitting up and fighting over a painting of duck hunting hanging over the TV. He's also moving and Moko is trying to deal with his intense feelings for his best friend. Meanwhile the girl next door is showing Moko how to kiss with tongues while she bakes her cake. And the pizza guy turns from an adversary to a confidante who spills a lot of baggage of his own. Arreola looks a bit like a creepy Roberto Benigni and that's perhaps his role but the kids are brilliant. Eimbcke shot this in black and white and that's part of the artistry of the movie. The audience doesn't know Flama has shocking red hair until they discuss it. And although most of the film takes place in the apartment there are scenes of the city and a heart-wrenching flashback of the local dog pound (footage from the director's award-winning short.) Like any languid day the movie has slow moments but it's fascinating to watch this foursome fight off the banality of their day-to-day lives by dealing with each other. Duck Season swept Mexico's version of the Oscars but wasn't selected as the country's foreign language entry so for now it will have to get noticed some other way.