A couple of years back, we spent a fantastic couple of weeks in Madrid. For that reason, I thoroughly enjoyed the photogenic roll out of familiar, beloved Madrileno locations in The Cold Light of Day……Unfortunately that was the ONLY reason. Not even Henry Cavill – Henry Freakin Cavill – can save this perplexing, frustrating and laughably unengaging clusterfuck.
Honestly, here’s the level of emotional conviction on display; during the movie, (Spoilers ahead) the future Man of Steel learns three fairly momentous things about his old Dad; 1) that he’s actually a spy working for a secret division of the CIA, 2) he’s sold state secrets to terrorists and 3) he’s also betrayed his family and had an entire child out of wedlock. In spite of these tumultuous, life-shattering revelations, Henry reacts NOT AT ALL. Not at all. It’s total rubbish really, and car chases, and relentless villains, and basement trade-offs and precious briefcases (whose contents are NEVER revealed) are nothing you haven’t seen before in better, faster, funner movies. Plaza Major may look fantastic, but that, sadly, is not enough.
A lot was made of the fact that Galaxy Quest – the 1999 movie starring a shirtless Tim Allen, a pneumatic Sigourney Weaver and a host of other huge stars in early roles – managed to spoof Star Trek fans but simultaneously honour them. Which is true. This is, after all, the story of a group of hapless has-been actors in a defunct sci-fi show forced to literally live their old roles in order to help a threatened alien race, only to be saved by the most ardent of Trekkie fans. However, not enough (in my mind, at least) was made of the fact that this is a genuinely exciting movie and genuinely funny to boot – with cracking one-liners that still make you laugh out loud. (“Quick, before they kill Guy…” – see? still laughing. Oh well, you probably had to be there.)
Most of the filming took place in the studio in Culver City, with one notable exception: a plot point sees our reluctant heroes land on a red planet of wierd, phallus-y, mushroom-y, rocks, where balls of metal are harvested by a gang of evil munchkins. This in fact is the aptly-named Goblin Valley State Park in Utah. Wow.
In Vantage Point, there’s an assassination attempt on the life of the President of the United States whilst he’s attending a big anti-terrorism summit in Salamanca, Spain. This chaotic exposition of bullet and bomb unfolds piece-by-piece, via six separate points-of-view, culminating in a car chase that features some of the best stunt driving action you’ll see in a movie this year.
Hallalujah for the producers decision to portray the Babel-esque linguistic confusion of a foreign attack (rather than yet another East Coast location). However, having settled for the elegance of Salamanca, there was a significant problem with actually blowing up a historic plaza. Therefore, the decision was made to build the famous plaza from scratch, in the suburbs of Mexico City. It took ten weeks, working seven days each week, with over three hundred workers to construct the set.
Executive Producer Callum Greene explains, “We found an abandoned four-story mall which became a perfect area for us. We built our construction, carpentry, metal work, and plastic shops in the abandoned mall. Next to it was a pit where we built our Plaza Mayor….. We were able to go back to Salamanca and shoot certain scenes there; the two blended together seamlessly. You really can’t tell what was shot in Spain and what was shot on our set.”
And as Emmanuel Levy notes; the key advantage to building your own set is that everyone is excited when it’s time to blow it up.
From a film-making perspective, Vantage Point is rather classily handled. The six sections sit together well; each witness to the assassination provides important fragments of information so that the pennies drop exactly as they should. It’s well acted too, with the Hollywood grandees of Hurt, Weaver and Quaid doing particularly good stuff. But having said all that, there’s something flawed about the film – perhaps the film makers were so focussed on creating an intelligently constructed film that they forgot to develop the characters in any significant detail.
And ultimately, the carefully-honed plot is sunk by the insipid movie-cliche of the stupid little girl who blunders her way into the path of danger. (As Time Magazine’s reviewer so wryly puts it: It’s as if Dakota Fanning had wandered onto the streets of Ronin.) Given that the terrorists had just both killed AND kidnapped the American president, blown up a historic city killing and maiming hundreds of innocents AND suicide-bombed a hotel lobby, d’ya really think they would have braked to avoid a dumb-ass kid crossing the road?