A new political thriller starring Dennis Quaid takes an unconventional cinematic approach to portraying dramatic events: a fictional attack on a U.S. president and the frantic race to catch the assassins. Alan Silverman has a look at Vantage Point.
The first view comes in the isolation of a television network control room: banks of monitors show views from various cameras as the news program's director calls out instructions to her technical staff and the reporters in the field.
The on-scene reporter calmly describes the scene of world leaders gathered for a historic peace conference. Then, as the U.S. president steps to the podium ...gunshots echo across the plaza and the wounded president falls to the ground. The view from every monitor is now chaos as the crowd races for safety and Secret Service agents leap into action.
The images begin reversing back to the beginning and then the event plays out again, but this time from a different "Vantage Point" - that of a senior Secret Service agent assigned to protect the president.
The film presents the same 23 minutes eight times: each view from the perspective of a different player in the events and it takes each character's "Vantage Point" to get a complete picture of what really happened.
Dennis Quaid stars as the key Secret Service agent.
"What is so exciting about this movie for an audience member is that it's a puzzle, really, and you're trying to put this together ...trying to find out who did it and why it happened," says Quaid. "As an audience you're putting together this puzzle along with the characters in the film."
Sigourney Weaver plays the television director whose view of events is only what she can see on her monitor screens.
"I just thought it was a great idea for a movie: sort of concentric circles to keep getting into what really happened," Weaver says. "The truth about any of these events is we only get kind of the outside. We don't get told a lot of things or the news people don't get told. So I just thought it was a brilliant idea to go into the inner workings."
To show those ever-widening circles, the actors had to replay their scenes eight times with different characters in the center of events from his or her "Vantage Point." Oscar-winner Forest Whitaker plays a man in the crowd who captures the scene on his video camera.
"I stayed in the same behavior as the character throughout the whole thing," Whitaker says. "I didn't really change my choices based on where the cameras were. I stayed with the same thought, so it was just an opportunity to do the scene another time."
Vantage Point director Peter Travis says it is significant that the first view for the audience is TV news coverage.
"The point of the film is you see this event and you see it on television, which is how we see the world, mostly ...we see it in the media," he explains. "That's how we understand world events: through the eyes of the media. Then the rest of the film shows there is more to it than that."
Travis adds that he gave each 'replay' of the events not only a different perspective, but also a different style.
"I kind of wanted the camera to be the other people. In first sequence, which is Sigourney's story, you see the president walk into the plaza and all the cameras are kind of in the positions where TV cameras would be," explains Travis. "They are fixed or they are hand-held, but within the crowd in the kind of places where a TV show would feature it.
"So you're watching it from a distance, in a way," he continues. "Then for the second story, when you follow Dennis's character, I really wanted it to feel like what it was like getting out of a car in a hostile environment and walking into a huge crowd, so the camera is a very different kind of thing. It is with him. You see every face in the crowd as potentially an assassin and when you go through the plaza you can hear the sound of the crowd in a way that you never heard it before. We really tried each time to make the journey seem like it was a different experience."
Vantage Point also features Matthew Fox (of the TV show Lost) as the agent in charge of the presidential protection detail. William Hurt is the fictional President Ashton; and the international cast includes Eduardo Noriega from Spain, Venezuelan actor Edgar Ramirez and Israeli actress Ayelet Zurer as main players in the assassination plot. Though the story is set in Spain, Vantage Point was shot on location in and around Mexico City.