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Vantage Point DVD Review

Vantage Point movie poster Vantage Point

Theatrical Release: February 22, 2008 / Running Time: 90 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Pete Travis / Writer: Barry Levy

Cast: Dennis Quaid (Thomas Barnes), Matthew Fox (Kent Taylor), Forest Whitaker (Howard Lewis), Bruce McGill (Phil McCullough), Edgar Ramirez (Javier), Saïd Taghmaoui (Suarez), Ayelet Zurer (Veronica), Zoë Saldana (Angie Jones), Sigourney Weaver (Rex Brooks), William Hurt (President Ashton), James LeGros (Ted Heinkin), Eduardo Noriega (Enrique), Richard T. Jones (Holden)

Buy Vantage Point from Amazon.com: 1-Disc DVD • 2-Disc Deluxe Edition DVD • Blu-ray Disc


By Aaron Wallace

On the brink of announcing a revolutionary alliance
in the War on Terror, the President of the United States is shot. The crowd in Salamanca, Spain panics as Secret Service agents begin a frenzied hunt for the shooter. Moments later, an explosion is heard in the distance. A few minutes more and a massive bomb blast rocks the Plaza Mayor with the President still inside.

That is the plot of Vantage Point, first-time director Pete Travis' 2008 political thriller. The angle is that the story is told six times in a row, each from the very different perspective of someone on the scene.

Agent Barnes (Dennis Quaid) and Agent Taylor (Matthew Fox) escort President Ashton (William Hurt) through an excited crowd in Salamanca, Spain. An explosion rocks the Plaza Mayor -- or rather, a convincing replica created for the production of "Vantage Point."

President Henry Ashton (William Hurt) is the no-nonsense elected leader of the United States of America, a nation still embroiled in fighting terrorism but making great strides in diplomacy.

Rex Brooks (Sigourney Weaver) is a producer for cable news network GNN, watching the action on several live camera feeds inside a trailer near the Plaza.

Thomas Barnes (Dennis Quaid) is a Secret Service agent who is in the Plaza. On his first mission since having taken a bullet for the President during another assassination attempt, he is now working with another agent, Kent Taylor (Matthew Fox).

Enrique (Eduardo Noriega) is an undercover police officer assigned to protecting Salamanca's mayor; his weapon and proximity to the President make him an immediate suspect for Barnes.

Howard Lewis (Forest Whitaker) is a kindhearted American who is visiting Spain and capturing the diplomatic proceedings -- and subsequent chaos -- on his digital camera.

Sigourney Weaver delivers a stellar performance as CNN-- er, GNN producer Rex Brooks in Vantage Point. Enrique (Eduardo Noriega) is charged with protecting the mayor of Salamanca but may soon be charged with attacking him if the Secret Service's hunch passes muster.

With each new perspective, another piece is placed in the puzzle as the viewer gets closer and closer to discovering who is behind the attack. Along the way, plot twists and surprising reveals are in ample supply. After the 23-minute attack has played out five times
(each unique replay lasting between ten and twenty minutes), the final rundown unveils all for a somewhat unexpected conclusion.

Despite the intriguing (if not wholly original -- see Bobby from just two years ago) premise, Vantage Point opened to cold reviews and mid-level box office performance. The overwhelming critical response is puzzling. While Vantage Point fails to really interrogate its characters or the emotional depths of its subject matter, it does provide a sufficiently gripping and suspensively crafted story.

With two Best Actor Oscar winners (Hurt and Whitaker) and a host of headliners among it, Vantage Point's cast is its biggest asset. Though each is given only a small allotment of screen time, the actors deliver strong performances that sell the divergent perspectives. Even more impressive, perhaps, is the film's ability to be about politics without being political. Given that the divisive War on Terror is at the center of all the action, that's a feat. Perhaps the apolitical tone is exactly what disappointed the bulk of Hollywood's critics.

This week, Sony releases Vantage Point on both a single-disc and a Two-Disc Deluxe Edition DVD. The studio opted to supply the single-disc version for review. Fortunately, it contains most of the supplements (a rarity these days, when most or all bonus features are usually reserved for the higher-priced double-disc sets).

Buy Vantage Point on DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

2.40:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, Spanish, Portuguese, Thai)
Dolby Digital 2.0 (French)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Korean, Chinese, Thai; Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: July 1, 2008
Suggested Retail Price: $14.94 (Reduced from $28.96)
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Black Keepcase
Also available in 2-Disc Deluxe Edition DVD
and on Blu-ray Disc

VIDEO and AUDIO

The film is presented in its original 2.40:1 aspect ratio and with a 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack. The single-disc edition is available exclusively in widescreen, while the Deluxe Edition contains both the original widescreen and a "pan & scan" fullscreen presentation. The widescreen transfer is stellar, as one would expect for a brand new film, and the surround sound track is entirely pleasing too.

5.1 Dolby Digital tracks are also available in
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Spanish, Portuguese, and Thai. There is a French language track too, but it comes only in 2.0 Dolby Surround. Subtitles are available in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Korean, Chinese, and Thai.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

The lengthiest special feature is, of course, the audio commentary by director Pete Travis. For a one man show, this track isn't as dull as you might fear. Rather, it's fairly interesting and reveals a number of fascinating facts you might not hear elsewhere.

Sigourney Weaver talks about her Rex Brooks character in the "Plotting an Assassination" featurette. Cameramen hitch an unconventional ride on the side of an out of control police car in "Coordinating Chaos". The gist of this featurette: Kids, don't try this at home. The Special Features menu employs a bit of film score but doesn't bother with animation. The silhouette seen here is that of Forest Whitaker.

"An Inside Perspective" (26:43) is your typical making-of featurette, with interviews from cast and crew and some behind-the-scenes footage.
"Plotting An Assassination" (16:00) is essentially more of the same, with an emphasis on the script and characters. Together, they add up to more than forty minutes of an excessively laudatory and unremarkable overview piece. You'll want to avoid the bonus features until you've seen the movie, lest you pay a visit to Spoiler City!

"Surveillance Tapes" (0:43) is labeled as an outtake but isn't actually one at all. Instead, it's a gag take of director Pete Travis getting in on the film's action -- funny, but disappointing to those who thought they were in for actual deleted footage. The short clip is introduced by Travis himself.

"Coordinating Chaos" (7:28) is yet another wholly ordinary -- but at least, more focused -- making-of featurette. This bonus pulls from crew interviews to provide general observations about the challenges that big action scenes present. Rather than an in-depth exploration of a particular scene, viewers are treated to a half dozen people saying basically the same thing: car stunts can be tricky and dangerous.

That's all the single-disc edition offers, which means the 2-Disc Deluxe Edition must be pretty exciting, right? Wrong! According to Sony's press release, the premium version merely replicates the bonuses profiled above and tacks on a digital copy (meaning you can legally copy the movie onto your computer or iPod) and an exclusive "full screen" format, so that your vantage point can be a substantially obscured one.

The 16x9 main menu is a cool-looking one that evokes the poster artwork, with the silhouette of a gunman being formed by various black and white clips from the film. Solid black lines run across and through the silhouette as a piece of score plays. There's a classy mystique to the appearance, which goes well with the movie that it represents. That motif is carried over to the submenus, where the silhouette is that of one of the main characters. Music but not animation continues onto the Special Features screen, while all other submenus are both still and silent.

The single-disc DVD is packaged in a standard black keepcase with no inserts inside. The disc is labeled with a largely black and white design featuring several of the main characters.

Three previews play when the disc is inserted for Hancock, 21 on DVD, and Prom Night on DVD. Those three can also be accessed from the Special Features menu, as can additional Sony previews for: The House Bunny, Lakeview Terrace, Persepolis, The Other Boleyn Girl, "Rescue Me": Seasons 1-4, "The Shield": Seasons 1-6, "Damages": Season 1, and My Mom's New Boyfriend. The Special Features menu also contains promos for Sony action films and Blu-ray Disc releases.

Forest Whitaker brings a lot of heart to "Vantage Point" in his portrayal of goodhearted American Howard Lewis. Secret Service agents Barnes (Dennis Quaid) and Holden (Richard T. Jones) quarrel over which suspect to pursue in the immediate aftermath of a terrorist attack.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Vantage Point is a suspenseful and thrilling film which somehow avoids monotony despite telling the same story six times in a row. The contemporary setting plays on very real political anxieties but the film opts out of weighty debate. Anything else would probably have been transparently partisan and a surefire derailment of an otherwise solid story, but the surface level nature of the action doesn't leave a lot to chew on later. Therefore, I'll recommend the movie first and foremost as a rental. If you decide you must own it, you'll do just as well purchasing the lower-priced single-disc edition as you would with the Two-Disc Special Edition.

Buy Vantage Point from Amazon.com: Single-Disc DVD / 2-Disc Deluxe Edition DVD / Blu-ray Disc

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The Cast of Vantage Point:
Dennis Quaid: The Rookie • The Parent Trap (1998) | Matthew Fox: Lost: The Complete First Season
Forest Whitaker: Good Morning, Vietnam: Special Edition | James LeGros: Zodiac: 2-Disc Director's Cut | Bruce McGill: The Lookout
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Reviewed July 2, 2008.



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