A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that some teens may be drawn to this political action adventure by its all-star cast of popular/award-wining actors (including Matthew Fox of Lost, Dennis Quaid, Sigourney Weaver, and Forest Whitaker). The film revolves around a terrorist attack on the U.S. president and features scenes of explosions killing a crowd of people, a suicide bomber detonating in a posh hotel's lobby, high-ranking officials being shot at execution-style, and other bloody deaths. Language includes words like "s--t" and "bitch"; it's worth noting that there's markedly less commercialism and drug/alcohol use than in comparable films.
What's the story?
Dennis Quaid leads an all-star ensemble in Irish filmmaker Pete Travis' feature debut, VANTAGE POINT. At a global political summit on terror and peace in Spain, a group of Spanish, American, and Moroccan people collide as the president of the United States (William Hurt) becomes the target of an elaborately planned terrorist attack. The film focuses on one person's point of view at a time -- Quaid's veteran Secret Service Agent Thomas Barnes, for example -- and, after 20 minutes or so, "rewinds" and recreates the same event from another character's perspective. Audiences see the events through the eyes of an American tourist (Forest Whitaker), a Spanish-Muslim assassin (Edgar Ramirez), a news-network producer (Sigourney Weaver), etc., until all the loose ends are neatly tied up in the final act.
Is it any good?
What begins as a promising action thriller with the gripping real-time suspense of 24 and the fast-editing style of the last two Bourne films starts turning into an odd Groundhog Day gimmick. After a while, viewers will probably start laughing at the concept. Instead of changing the perspective seamlessly, Travis shows the scenes rewinding (ala a DVR being used to return to the beginning of an important sequence) over and over again. By the time Whitaker's tourist begins running around Salamanca like a deputized Secret Service Agent, the movie is officially annoying. But at least Whitaker's Spanish -- as a tourist! -- is better than Matthew Fox's and Israeli actress Ayelet Zurer's, both of whom are supposedly fluent or native speakers.
Travis is obviously a fan (and friend) of filmmaker Paul Greengrass, who wrote and produced a TV movie that Travis directed in 2006. But where Greengrass' documentary approach in movies like Bloody Sunday draws viewers into the action, Travis' attempt alienates audiences, who will tire of seeing the same 25 minutes and want to hit an invisible fast-forward button to get to the film's outcome.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the movie portrays the United States, the president, and terrorists. Are there parallels to modern U.S. politics? How so? Is it common in recent films for the American government and its leaders to be shown negatively -- especially in films that take place abroad? Why or why not? What message do you think the movie is trying to send?
- In theaters: February 21, 2008
- On DVD or streaming: July 1, 2008
- Cast: Dennis Quaid, Forest Whitaker, Matthew Fox
- Director: Pete Travis
- Studio: Columbia Tristar
- Genre: Thriller
- Run time: 90 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sequences of intense violence and action, some disturbing images and brief strong language.
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