This old fashioned melodrama will grab you

Vantage Point

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

            One of the great melodramatic moments of all movie time takes place in “Vantage Point.” After a full movie’s worth of blood, explosions, car crashes, and chases, a handsome and bloodied Secret Service agent says in complete understatement, “POTUS is in hand.” After what we’ve been through, it is a line that will rank right up there with, “Play it again, Sam.” As he puts the phone down, the agent’s worn but proud face is seen against a brilliant blue sky as he says quietly, “Thank you, Sir.” I may be putting this cart before the horse, but trust me, this old fashioned melodrama will grab you; if you want a serious movie, skip it.

            The movie opens in high tension and reduces us to pulp in under an hour and a half. Periodically the audience explodes in laughter at the relentless pace of the action. Whether or not they like the movie, they can barely breathe.

            But I’m ahead of myself. We are in Spain for a summit meeting on terrorism. Sigourney Weaver is directing television network coverage from a trailer. As she barks orders to cameramen in the packed Plaza, we are already tense. Her TV monitors record the shooting of the President of the United States – code name POTUS. Because the dirty deed has been done in the beginning of the movie, we relax for a moment, preparing to solve the crime.

            At this point, the structure unfolds. We are to watch from multiple vantage points as President William Hurt takes two bullets to the chest. Number 1 is agent Dennis Quaid who scans a building that borders the plaza. He sees a curtain flutter. Number 2 is a handsome young man named Enrique who flashes a police badge that allows him to go wherever he wants. He misjudges his girlfriend. Number 3 is Forest Whitaker, an American tourist taking a vacation video. He films the assassin. Number 4 is POTUS. He’s in trouble.

            So are we. We have been following things quite well in a white knuckle state, but suddenly we have a suicide bomber, an arm gripper of a car chase, masked terrorists, multiple gunshot killings, and a traitor who has not drawn our suspicion. After all this, and suddenly, Dennis Quaid steps into the sunlight through a shatterproof windshield; the audience howls its delight.

            If you go to this movie, you must set aside the certainty that it is entirely inappropriate to make a movie about the shooting of a president in a country – ours – that has a long history of killing its leaders. Since there isn’t an ounce of reality here, that’s quite easy to do. This is an old fashioned suspense thriller made with the kind of theatrical flourishes that were popular decades ago. It’s all melodrama, and in just 1:28 the audience has experienced compulsive chaos and returned to their seats, exhausted. That’s not bad for an otherwise ordinary movie.

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