Vantage Point is a 2008 American political action thriller film directed by Pete Travis; it was adapted from a screenplay written by Barry L. Levy. The story focuses on an assassination attempt on the President of the United States, as seen from the various vantage points of different characters. Dennis Quaid, Matthew Fox, Forest Whitaker, William Hurt, and Sigourney Weaver star in principal roles. The film is often compared, unfavorably, to Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon, which also employed storytelling through multiple perspectives. Rashomon used the multiple perspectives to question the possibility of truth, in a process called the Rashomon effect; in contrast, Vantage Point recounts a series of events which are re-enacted from several different perspectives and viewpoints in order to reveal a truthful account of what happened. Vantage Point also explores kidnapping, assassination and terrorism.
The motion picture was co-produced by Relativity Media, Original Film, and Art In Motion. It was commercially distributed by Columbia Pictures theatrically, and by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment in home media format. The film project began principal photography in Mexico City on June 18, 2006. Executive producers for the film included Callum Greene, Tania Landau, and Lynwood Spinks. On February 26, 2008, the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack was released by the VarÃ¨se Sarabande label. The film score was composed by musician Atli Ãrvarsson.
Following its premiere on February 22, 2008, Vantage Point grossed $72,266,306 in domestic ticket receipts. The film was screened at 3,163 theaters during its widest release nationwide in the United States. It earned an additional $78,895,185 in business through international release to top out at a combined $151,161,491 in gross revenue. The film was technically considered a strong financial success due to its $40 million budget costs. Preceding its theatrical run though, the film was met with generally mixed to negative critical reviews. The widescreen DVD and high-definition Blu-ray Disc editions of the film featuring the director's audio commentary and interviews with the cast and crew, were both released in the United States on July 8, 2008.
U.S. President Henry Ashton (Hurt) attends a political summit in Salamanca, Spain, to promote an international treaty. Displayed with eight differing viewpoints, an assassination attempt on the president occurs, relayed in a time span of 23 minutes. Each time the events unfold from the beginning, a new vantage point is shown revealing additional details, which ultimately completes the story of what actually took place during the incident.
From the first vantage point, GNN producer Rex Brooks (Weaver), directs various media personnel from a mobile television studio as the president arrives at the gathering. Mayor De Soto (Rodriguez) delivers a short speech and then introduces the president, who is shot twice as he greets the crowd from the podium. An explosion outside the plaza soon follows. Moments later, the podium itself is destroyed by a secondary explosion, killing and injuring numerous people. As the smoke clears, GNN reporter Angie Jones (Saldana) is seen lying dead in the rubble.
The second vantage point follows Secret Service agents Thomas Barnes (Quaid) and Kent Taylor (Fox). Barnes notices a curtain fluttering in the window of a nearby building that was allegedly vacated. He also observes American tourist Howard Lewis (Whitaker) filming the audience. After the president is shot, Barnes tackles a man rushing to the podium named Enrique (Noriega). Taylor pursues a lead to a potential assassin. Following the second explosion, Barnes barges into the GNN production studio and asks to view their footage. He calls Taylor, who reports the direction of the suspected assassin's escape route. Barnes then views an image on one of the camera's live feeds that startles him and prompts him to run out.
In the third vantage point, Enrique, a Spanish police officer assigned to protecting the mayor of Salamanca, sees his girlfriend Veronica (Zurer), being embraced by a stranger and overhears them speaking about meeting under an overpass. When he confronts her, Veronica assures Enrique of her love for him as he hands her a bag. When the president is shot, Enrique rushes onto the stage to protect the mayor, but is tackled by Barnes. While being detained, he witnesses Veronica toss the bag he gave her under the podium, causing the second explosion. Enrique escapes as the agents who previously had him in custody mount a chase while firing shots in his direction, failing to subdue him. Enrique confronts an unseen individual at the overpass and asks if he is surprised to see him still alive.
The fourth vantage point revolves around Howard Lewis who is chatting with a man called Sam (Taghmaoui), while a little girl named Anna (Zapien), bumps into him and drops her ice cream. Later, Lewis notices Barnes looking at the curtain fluttering in the window of a nearby building, and captures the footage with his camcorder. Following the second explosion at the podium, Lewis chases Enrique and the pursuing Secret Service agents. At the overpass, Lewis views the pair of agents from afar shooting in the direction of Enrique as he greets an individual in a police uniform under the overpass. Seriously wounded, Enrique falls to the ground. Lewis sees Anna who had earlier become separated from her mother, trying to cross a busy intersection. An ambulance races down the road about to hit Anna, as Lewis runs out to save her.
The fifth vantage point begins as President Ashton, having been informed of a credible assassination threat, has returned to his hotel room with his aides while his body double proceeds to the gathering in the plaza. The President talks with his personnel about the reason for the terrorists' plot, the retaliation by the U.S. to the plot, the return of Barnes to active duty, and giving the order for the retaliation to proceed. The first explosion occurs just outside the hotel. Seconds later, a masked assailant bursts into the president's room, shoots his advisers and then proceeds to abduct Ashton.
By the sixth vantage point, terrorist Suarez, previously seen as Sam; shoots Ashton's body double using a remote-controlled automatic rifle placed in an adjacent window next to the one with the fluttering curtain that had drawn Barnes' attention earlier. The rifle is retrieved by Taylor, who Barnes sees leaving the scene wearing a Spanish policeman's uniform on one of the GNN live feeds, even though he tells Barnes that he's in pursuit of the assassin over the phone. Barnes realizes Taylor is actually part of the terror plot. The man Enrique saw embracing Veronica is revealed to be sharpshooter Javier (Ramirez), whose brother is being held hostage to ensure Javier's cooperation with the terrorists. The first explosion, at the hotel, is revealed to be a device detonated by a suicide bomber disguised as a bellhop who had previously handed Javier a hotel room key. Javier kills the guards and aides within the hotel, and kidnaps the president. Ashton is later placed in an ambulance with Suarez and Veronica disguised as medics. Javier joins Taylor in a police car to a planned rendezvous at the overpass. Barnes commandeers a car and chases Taylor and Javier. Barnes gets into a collision with a truck, allowing the duo to escape. At the overpass, Enrique, who did not die in the blast at the podium as intended, confronts Javier and Taylor. Enraged, Javier shoots Enrique, mistakenly believing he had knowledge of his kidnapped brother's whereabouts. Javier is then shot and killed by Taylor when he demands to be brought to his brother, who had been killed earlier by Suarez. Enrique dies of his wounds as Barnes reaches the scene on foot firing several rounds at Taylor, who attempts to flee. After crashing his car, a critically injured Taylor is dragged out by Barnes. He orders Taylor to reveal where the president has been taken, but Taylor dies. Meanwhile, Ashton regains consciousness in the ambulance and attacks Veronica, distracting her and Suarez just as Anna runs into their path. Suarez swerves causing the ambulance to flip over just as Lewis pulls Anna out of its way. Barnes runs to the ambulance where he sees Veronica lying dead. He shoots Suarez dead and rescues the president.
In the original script, Rex Brooks was a male and Howard Lewis was an overweight Eastern European. In Plotting an Assassination, a bonus feature on the DVD release of the film, director Pete Travis explained he felt there were so few strong female characters in the film, that he decided to cast Sigourney Weaver as the GNN producer. When Forest Whitaker expressed interest in participating in the project, Travis welcomed the chance to work with him by Americanizing the character of Howard.
Originally scheduled for a 2007 release by Sony, the film began principal photography on June 18, 2006 in Mexico City. Locations included the Casa de los Azulejos, with some exteriors shot in Cuernavaca and Puebla. Director Travis discussed the difficulties the cast and crew faced each day as they tried to film during the height of Mexico's rainy season. He credited cinematographer Amir Mokri and the lighting crew for making it look like the twenty-minute segment portrayed in the film unfolded under clear and sunny skies, when in fact it frequently was overcast and drizzling during filming.
During filming, the crew worked with decorated U.S. Army veteran Ron Blecker, in order to help the lead actors prepare themselves to play Secret Service agents. Describing his experience, Quaid commented: "We were there for two weeks before we started shooting. We trained as a team, as a Secret Service unit, of these guys. The president never goes anywhere that it's not choreographed well in advance. That's what we would do". One of the difficult elements of the filming were the car chase scenes. Quaid admitted, "Except for the actual 40-mile-an-hour crashes" he did most of the driving sequences himself. On the dynamics of the storyline, Quaid mentioned: "When I read a script, it's the only time I get to be an audience member. It's the first time I experience something. It really read so well that I felt if they could just put this on screen, it was going to work. Pete not only did that, but he really elevated it as well, in the way that he shot it." Regarding the multiple performances of the same event, Quaid explained: "I just played it the same way the entire time". He added: "because it's from another person's point-of-view, then the audience has a different perception - even though Iâm doing the same thing. You get to see this 15 minutes, then the next time you shoot that same 15 minutes, you might catch a different angle of that character that you couldnât see before ... what that character was thinking. You see them go around the corner and what really happened, from what they said. It's what is interesting and what is so exciting about this movie."
Actor Matthew Fox explained how the series of events, filmed a number of times, presented its difficulties: "Just on a technical basis, film can be a very tedious process", but added, "when you get into a situation where you're going to tell the same events through eight different perspectives, it becomes like eight times as tedious. You're doing these sequences over and over and over again." Working with the director, Fox felt: "That was the real fun thing for Pete Travis and I to do together. I loved working with him and he's a real actor's director in that he gets right in there with you. He's thinking about the character from the point of view of the character." Fox believed his training for his part was instrumental in achieving the desired effect. He commented: "It was always very important to [Travis] that we pull off the logistics of what we were doing as Secret Service agents and as that whole team, that the real physical elements of it, where guns are carried, how voice things are used, the structure of getting in and out of cars, that was accurate. We did have consultants". In complimenting his co-actors, Fox viewed them as being inspirational: "Dennis Quaid, Forest Whitaker, William Hurt ... I mean, I was just very happy to be working in the same movie as all three of them as a huge fan. I respect their work a great deal." Fox summed up his experience in the film by exclaiming: "This movie and the concept of perspective is something that the idea that one event can be perceived so differently by two different people depending on where they're standing, who they are and how they want to perceive it, if they have an agenda to perceive it a certain way, is something I think about all the time in my life, in my own individual microworld in relationships that I have."
The original motion picture soundtrack for Vantage Point was released by the VarÃ¨se Sarabande music label on February 26, 2008. The score for the film was orchestrated by Atli Ãrvarsson and mixed by Alan Meyerson. Dina Eaton edited the film's music.
The film had its world premiere in Spain on February 28, 2008. The next day on February 29, it premiered in Italy, Sweden and Switzerland. Other European markets in Portugal and Croatia had the film premiering on April 3. It went into general theatrical release in the U.S., Canada and Mexico on February 22. Certain Asian-Pacific markets; Australia and New Zealand saw the premiere of the film on March 13, while in Malaysia it screened the following day on March 14.
Following its cinematic release in theaters, the Region 1 widescreen edition of the film was released on DVD in the United States on July 1, 2008. Special features for the DVD include "Surveillance Tapes: Outtakes", interviews with the cast and crew titled "An Inside Perspective, Plotting an Assassination", "Coordinating Chaos" stunt featurette, and the director's commentary. Additionally, a two-disc Special Edition DVD was also released by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment on July 1, 2008. Viewers have the option of seeing the film in either anamorphic widescreen or fullscreen formats. Special features include "Surveillance Tapes: Outtakes", the "An Inside Perspective, Plotting an Assassination" feature, "Coordinating Chaos" stunt featurette, the director's commentary, and a digital copy of the film that can be downloaded to a PC with a DVD-ROM option or to a Sony PSP.
The widescreen hi-definition Blu-ray Disc version of the film was released on July 1, 2008. Special features include Surveillance Tapes: Outtakes, the "An Inside Perspective, Plotting an Assassination" feature, "Coordinating Chaos" stunt featurette, and the director's commentary. The disc also includes an exclusive "Vantage Viewer" feature, allowing for a tracking movement of each character's location and vantage point throughout the film. A UMD version of the film for the Sony PSP was released on July 1, 2008. The disc features dubbed, subtitled, and color widescreen format viewing options. A supplemental viewing option for the film in the media format of video on demand is available as well.
Among mainstream critics in the U.S., the film received mixed reviews. Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a score of 35% based on reviews from 154 critics, with an average score of 5.0 out of 10. At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average out of 100 to critics' reviews, the film received a score of 40 based on 32 reviews.
Jim Lane, writing in the Sacramento News & Review, said in outward negativity, "It all winds upâ"or dribbles downâ"to yet another chase through crowded streets in commandeered cars, with an ending meant to be ironic but simply providing a crowning howler to all the Rube Goldberg nonsense." He emphatically believed, "with all the repetition and a modest 90-minute running time, they run out of ideas before they run out of film." Left unimpressed, Mick LaSalle in the San Francisco Chronicle, wrote that the film "has a fractured and frustrating narrative." Unlike Akira Kurosawa's classic film Rashomon, which is structured around multiple retellings of the same event, LaSalle characterizes Vantage Point as "fairly pedestrian, and nothing special is gained from all the stopping and restarting. The title is the tip-off. Aside from the changing-perspectives device, Vantage Point has nothing going on. There's no artistic, philosophical or even jolly entertainment reason for adopting this strategy. It's just arbitrary, a gimmick." Claudia Puig of USA Today, said the "various viewpoints don't quite link up. And they all employ the same rewind technique once unspooled. Stylistically, this laying out of the facts then speedily going back over them in reverse seems initially intriguing, but it gets old after about the fifth time." She even believed that like "many action-adventure movies that are short on plot intricacies but long on gimmick and explosives, too much is given away in the trailer." The film however, was not without its supporters. William Arnold of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, believed the film was "flat-out one of the more exciting and original gut-busters that Hollywood has produced in many a month. It's virtually all action, but the action is never mindless and it is full of marvelous surprises every step of the way." Richard Corliss of TIME commented that "Vantage Point scored with surprisingly robustness at the wickets, outperforming the predictions of industry analysts and seeming likely to be the weekend's No. 1 attraction." He noted the film is "best seen as straightforward, sometimes harrowing melodrama, packed with mistaken identities, beautiful villains, a kindly tourist who can outrace the bad guys, and a lost little girl whom the film brazenly sends onto a highway full of speeding cars." David Denby of The New Yorker, added to the positive sentiment by saying "Vantage Point is something remarkableâ"the ultimate case, perhaps, of a movie as a big whirling machine. The writer, Barry L. Levy, and the director, Pete Travis, a Brit who made a TV movie about a bombing in Northern Ireland, may be taking their cues from genre fiction, but no one can say that they havenât beautifully mapped out their turf as a grid of charged vectors."
Writing for The Boston Globe, Ty Burr bluntly noted that the "rewind/retell gambit quickly grows tiresome - we're groaning by the fourth narrative reboot - and, anyway, the device isn't used to question the nature of truth (as it was in Rashomon) but to slowly reveal a nefarious terrorist conspiracy to ... but I can say no more." He thought the end result of the film was "both clever and stupid - an interesting feat." In a mixed review, James Berardinelli writing for ReelViews, called the film a "fast-paced motion picture that fails the 'reality test' but maintains a certain intensity for its entire running length. It's entertaining in the same way that an episode of 24 is entertaining, but without the lead character shouting 'dammit!' every five minutes." Describing an unfavorable opinion, Scott Foundas of The Village Voice said the film encompassed "multiple perspectives" that "are all foreplay, it turns out, for an orgiastic third-act car chase during which the movie's story threads converge in a way that makes Paul Haggis seem like a master of Balzacian realism." Foundas ended his review noting "nothing in Vantage Point quickens the pulse as much as the realization that, with each successive turn of the wheel, we come one step closer to the end."
John Anderson of The Washington Post, stated that there were "many places one could lay blame for "Vantage Point." One would be the late Akira Kurosawa, whose original movie version of 'Rashomon' made it chic for filmmakers to create multiple-perspective movies and, since they aren't Kurosawa, drive us crazy." He ultimately came to the conclusion that "no amount of ripening time was going to help this gimmicky and ultimately harebrained movie." Similarly, Justin Chang wrote in Variety that the film circles "endlessly around a political assassination attempt and its violently contrived aftermath, the film proves every bit as crude, nerve-grinding and finally unsalvageable as the car accidents it keeps inflicting on its characters." He did however note, the original holdover slated release for the film in 2007 by Sony was "unlikely to stop traffic around multiplexes despite its attention-getting cast, especially when poor word of mouth takes hold." However, in a more upbeat tone, Owen Gleiberman writing for Entertainment Weekly thought the film was "a pulse-pounding technological showman whose high-strung, quick-cut style might be described as JFK meets Paul Greengrass meets Jerry Bruckheimer. That said, it's not the plot that thickens â" it's the pulp." He believed it had "a gripping premise that, for a while, at least, is grippingly executed."
The film premiered in cinemas on February 22, 2008 in wide release throughout the U.S.. During its opening weekend, the film opened in 1st place grossing $22,874,936 in business showing at 3,149 locations. The film The Spiderwick Chronicles came in second place during that weekend grossing $13,100,192. The film's revenue dropped by 44% in its second week of release, earning $12,819,245. For that particular weekend, the film fell to 2nd place screening in 3,150 theaters. The film Semi-Pro unseated Vantage Point to open in first place grossing $15,075,114 in box office revenue. During its final week in release, Vantage Point opened in a distant 25th place with $234,042 in revenue. The film went on to top out domestically at $72,266,306 in total ticket sales through a 9-week theatrical run. Internationally, the film took in an additional $78,895,185 in box office business for a combined worldwide total of $151,161,491. For 2008 as a whole, the film would cumulatively rank at a box office performance position of 43.
Following its cinematic release in 2008, Vantage Point won the Golden Trailer Award for Best Thriller. It also garnered a nomination from the Taurus World Stunt Awards in the category of Best Work With A Vehicle in 2009.
- Political decoy
- Assassinations in fiction
- Rashomon effect
- A Matter of Perspective
- Official website
- Vantage Point at the Internet Movie Database
- Vantage Point at AllMovie
- Vantage Point at Rotten Tomatoes
- Vantage Point at Metacritic
- Vantage Point at Box Office Mojo