"Vantage Point" Blu-ray Review
June 27, 2008 by Zach Demeter
Heavily advertised during its theatrical release in February, Vantage Point packed in the star power but didn’t pack in the moviegoers. While it made it did make near quadruple its budget back with worldwide totals taken into account, the film seemed to disappoint more than entertain the patrons that came to watch it. Advertised as tense thriller, Vantage Point instead delivered a different beast altogether in the final cut, flipping between tones that could have been associated with 24 or Lost, given the films affinity for real-time events and multiple points of view.
When a U.S. President is shot during a counter-terrorism summit in Spain, eight different individuals have an eagle eye view into the incident, but their views are all so mixed that it’s hard to quickly discern where the killer came from exactly. With surveillance tapes and crowd recordings galore, each of the characters relives their minutes before the fateful assassination and the role each of them plays. Once each of the characters stories are told only then do we discover the shocking truth behind the assassination and get to see the twist at the end.
I wasn’t sure what to expect going into Vantage Point; I half expected to be entertained and half expected to find a rather mediocre affair. My two halves ended up being correct, as I was on the edge of my seat for the first two segments of the film, but by the time we reached the third and fourth character “Re-winds” of the events, I began to get upset with the film since it wasn’t doing anything new. While the re-winds gave us insight to the individual characters and their purpose (note: Forest Whittaker’s character has…little to no purpose in this story), some of the time it just wasn’t worth it to see what some of the incidental characters were up to.
For the news report and Secret Service portions of the film, I was quite wrapped up in the whole situation of it all, but I just couldn’t get into the “terrorist” and “local American man” sides of the story; they just didn’t come off as that exciting and while William Hurt’s role as the president livened things up a bit towards the end of the film, I’d become so hateful of the same situation being repeated that I began to not care about the resolution. Of course once the resolution did come and a rousing car chase wrapped it up, I began to get into the film again, only for it to abruptly end and in ways that didn’t totally make sense. How could the news report sound like some big cover-up story when there was so many individuals around what happened that their report of the “edited” events would make no sense if word got out about what really happened?
I will say that I did enjoy the elements of the film that felt like something out of 24 (oh how I miss thee) and I began to wonder if this is what the eventual 24 film would feel like; edge of your seat from the beginning moments of the film and a tight race to the finish afterwards. Of course 24 wouldn’t rewind to see different characters POV’s, so that would get rid of that annoying problem I had with the film. Still, it was an interesting take on the whole terrorism/president assassination plot that was handled well in some ways, at least.
Something in the film that remained totally unbelievable to me were the Secret Service agents. Dennis Quaid seems to have an inability to be believable in dramatic situations. His dialogue with Matthew Fox when they arrive at the summit made me laugh, as he just sounded way too constipated about the whole issue and wasn’t believable in the least. On top of this he took the angry face look way too far throughout the film, to the point where I really did wonder if he was constipated. Maybe that was the medication he didn’t take in the beginning of the film.
Matthew Fox was barely utilized and surprisingly I had no problem disassociating him with his character from Lost, which is the only role I’ve seen him play previously. I did have to laugh at his complete lack of dialogue in the film, however, as during the climactic car chase in the finale act, all he managed to say when the camera turned to him was “Sh*t!” Ahh, the hindrances of being a PG-13 movie.
The rest of the cast, ranging from Sigourney Weaver (who was barely used in the film—she had only brief moments after her segment in the beginning of the film) to Forest Whitaker (who, as previously mentioned, had one of the most useless roles in the film) and William Hurt (who made a very likeable president), were all cast quite well, but the film just wasn’t enough to really use their characters to the fullest extent.
Honestly it wasn’t a bad film and I was entertained, but you just won’t feel much satisfaction at the end. The mystery behind the assassination isn’t all that big of one and one you could easily yell “I called it!” in true Colbert fashion when it’s finally revealed. In the same way that The Sentinel, starring Kiefer Sutherland, was a mediocre government double-agent type film, Vantage Point entertained but only on the superficial level. The easily digested plot and cookie-cutter terrorists (Oh no, we stole a bomb of theirs now they’re going to retaliate!) of the film just don’t leave you feeling very fulfilled by the end, but will sustain you for the hour and a half it runs for. Rent It.
Sony does their best to impress with this Blu-ray which packs on a very nice transfer along with a host of extras that are fun to check out if you were really into the film. For the basics the film arrives in a standard Blu-ray case with an insert showboating the format (if sales keep going the way they are, they may need to switch their strategy to “Why Blu-ray is really better than an upscaled DVD”) and disc art that mimics the rear cover. The menu system is simple and easy to navigate through.
For the video we’re treated to a beautiful 1080p HD transfer of the film, presented in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio that really brings out the detail in the locations for the film. Close-up of faces reveal plenty of dimples and eyelashes that would otherwise be smudged over in a DVD transfer and the grainy segments are well defined, while exterior helicopter shots look absolutely wonderful. On top of the pristine video transfer is a booming Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track that never seems to stop thumping, even in the quietest of moments. Those that want the film in something other than English need not worry, as 5.1 French, Spanish, Portuguese and Thai tracks are available, as well as English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Korean, Thai, Chinese (Simplified) and Chinese (Traditional) subtitles included. When asked what they were going to do with all the extra room on Blu-ray’s, apparently Sony decided to load it up with alternate languages. Helps keep this multi-region (A, B, and C) DVD easy to carry over between countries, I guess.
The first extra to scope out here is the Blu-ray Exclusive “Vantage Viewer”, which plays each of the eight viewpoints in a corner as a way of keeping tabs on what each person is doing while another part of the film plays in full behind it. It’s a cool little extra, although why anyone would watch the movie this way is beyond me. I seem to be running into a lot of these Blu-ray extra’s that fall into the “cool….well, I’m bored now, what else?” category. They’re neat in theory, but no matter how well they’re executed I just can’t see someone actually sitting through the entire film with it turned on.
Moving onto the “normal” extras is a commentary with director Pete Travis, who makes his feature film debut on this film, is lively and excited by this film and keeps the viewer, informed as to what they’re seeing the story behind the shots. He’s an eager director and his comments clearly show that; the film certainly didn’t suffer from the director and, quite honestly, succeeded in some points due to how shots were set up, so credit is definitely due to Travis, as I doubt the script in the hands of a lesser director would have turned out as thrill-ridey and popcorny as the film ended up being.
Next up are the featurettes. These are all your basic, run of the mill extras and it’s a fifty-fifty split between extras in 1080p and 480p. First is "An Inside Perspective" (26:43) which is our making-of, while "Plotting An Assassination" (15:59) talks about each of the individual segments of the film for each of the characters. Both of these extras are in 1080p, while "Coordinating Chaos: Stunt Featurette" (7:27), which obviously talks about the stunt work in the film and "Surveillance Tapes: Outtake" (0:42), which is a short outtake with director Peter Travis acting out one of the terrorist gun movement sequences, are presented in 480p. There is a BD Live option on the menu to choose, but every time I go to click on it, I get a failure error. I swear these fancy internet-required extras never work for me when I sit down to review the discs.
And that pretty much wraps up this release. Some trailers to look through, obviously, but aside from that we’re done. It’s a fun film to waste some time with, but the plot holes begin to gape wider and wider if you dwell on it too much. Best save this one for a mindless Saturday night when you’ve pushed back a few beers. Rent It.
Vantage Point arrives on DVD and Blu-ray on July 1st.