Vantage Point

William Hurt as a fake president in Vantage Point (dir. Pete Travis, 2008).

Someone by now must have come up with a special term for movies like this one, where it's basically our world, with our history, except that in the present there's some totally made-up president. I mean, it's nice to imagine having a different president from the one we've got, but it's always sort of distracting. The mind wanders, trying to reconcile the fiction with reality: let's see, they mention Reagan in the film, so it seems safe to assume that in this world, as in ours, Bush 1 succeeded Reagan, and Clinton followed Bush 1, and they mention 9/11 too, so it stands to reason that Bush 2 was in the mix there at some point ... but then what? Is this supposed to be the near future? No one named "Ashton" is running in this election that I know of, in either party. The whole alternate universe thing is just too silly when there's just that one little detail--the leader of the free world--that's changed (wait, I forgot, there's always also a major cable TV news network you've never heard of). Or, if one were able to look more closely into this other dimension, would one find other little discrepancies as well? Say, that grapefruits are poisonous, or that dogs can talk, or that Woody Allen is governor of Arizona? And if we do have a different president, why does he have to be William Hurt, for Christ's sake?

Then there's the whole Rashomon different-points-of-view structure thingy. Its function here as a device that generates suspense via the repeated deferral of key expositional moments has "device that generates suspense via the repeated deferral of key expositional moments" written all over it. It was entertaining listening to the movie theater audience groan every time the clock backed up again.

The who-saw-what business takes up about the first two thirds of the film, and then it switches over to a conventional omniscient perspective, which seems sloppy; if you're going to have this gimmicky conceit, it should at least be presented cleverly enough that it extends over the course of the whole story. Once you clear away all the smoke from the mirrors, here's what you're left with: typical plot about a Secret Service guy trying to get his nerve back after a damaging incident in the past, typical stereotypical terrorists, typical little kid in danger who you're supposed to care more about than all the other innocent bystanders who get blown up, typical car chase (pretty exciting, I'll admit), typical half-assed attempts at social commentary sprinkled here and there like big words in a lame freshman essay.

No comments: