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.
Ewan McGregor is Christian a romantic at heart who moves to the seedy Montmartre district of Paris to become a playwright. He and the raucous bunch of Bohemians he meets which includes artist Toulouse Lautrec (John Leguizamo) develop a stage musical to star the seductively beautiful Satine (Nicole Kidman) a famous courtesan and the Moulin Rouge's principal singer. The minute Christian lays eyes on Satine he's infatuated--and she winds up falling deeply in love with him despite herself. But the evil English duke (Richard Roxburgh) who is funding their show will only do so for a price-he's obsessed with Satine and wants her for himself.
Since much of this story is told via song (modern pop tunes and a few originals) the pressure was on the two leads to carry it off. Rumor has it Heath Ledger and Catherine Zeta-Jones were once the frontrunners for these roles--this movie certainly doesn't suffer without them. Nicole Kidman reveals herself a lovely singer particularly when performing "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" while suspended over the Moulin Rouge audience. Hunky Ewan McGregor as the heartbreakingly honest Christian is truly outstanding with a radiant smile and surprisingly beautiful singing voice to boot (who knew?). John Leguizamo overdoes it a wee bit as does Richard Roxburgh as the Duke but it's all in the crazy-quilt spirit of the film.
A shiny sparkling pinwheel of a production Moulin Rouge might be the most gorgeous movie you'll ever lay eyes upon. The costumes are fabulous (dolled up Nicole Kidman makes them positively breathtaking) as are the fairy tale sets and Goya-esque makeup. Mainstream audiences will likely reject director Baz Luhrmann's irreverence and whimsy; some scenes are overlong some are so swoopily herky-jerky your head spins. But Luhrmann may have done what hasn't been done since The Sound of Music in 1965--created a successful live-action musical one that could reinvent the genre. A gravelly voiced Boho warbles The Police's "Roxanne" as dancers tango; David Bowie does Nat "King" Cole's "Nature Boy"; and you've never seen Madonna's "Like a Virgin" performed quite this way before.