Wednesday, April 02, 2008

From 'your' Vantage Point

Certainly one of the main talking points in post-modern society is the issue of point of view. By this I mean that the theorists of knowing that are influenced by Derrida and Foucault have been arguing for some time that there is no objective reality, or if there is, we can't get at it because we are all prisoners of our individual identities, our own subjectivity. I personally am not enamored with this epistemology but it has a point. Each of us are 'active' viewers of the world, not merely passive sponges receiving its input, and to some extent we see what we want to see, or choose to see, or at least we see things from the angle we choose to view things. If it is true that multiple witnesses give us a better chance to penetrate the real and escape our cloud of narcissism and unknowing, then Vantage Point, the movie, can serve as a parable of such a hopeful truth.

I realize that Vantage Point has been negatively reviewed by many pundits and critics, and whilst I do take into account their laments, in this case I think they are largely wrong-- maybe the problem is 'their point of view' or at least their point of viewing! And actually it is the latter-- different points of viewing the same reality-- and knowing what to look for, which this movie is all about. My wife exhorted me to go see this film, and so I did-- and surprise, I thought it was great, and would gladly see it again.

This is a short, no filler movie (90 minutes), and falls under the heading of a thriller. In some respects it is like the movie 'Ground Hog Day' only that was a romantic comedy, and this movie is not about replaying something until one gets it right. Indeed, the reason we have seven rewinds in this movie of the 24 minute segment is so that we can look at what happened through the lens of eight different persons and the way they experienced what happened, and also the rolls they played, or didn't, in making it happen.

The acting in this film is very good, which is precisely what one would expect with a cast of William Hurt (as the President), Dennis Quaid and Kent Taylor (of 'Lost' fame) as secret service agents, Forest Whitaker as the by-standing tourist with the video cam, and Sigourney Weaver as the ruthless editor of the TV production. The premise of the movie is that there is a major conference in Spain of world leaders trying to work out an international and cooperative solution to world terrorism-- a noble aim. In the midst of a speech in a major square in Salamanca the President is shot (or is he?), a bomb or two is set off, and all Hades breaks loose. It becomes the job of Quaid to figure out what exactly is happening, and how best to both track down the terrorists who did this, and continue to protect the 'Leader of the Free World'.

One of the things this movie is most certainly about is that critical detailed searching and looking leads to seeing things other people who are casual observers will miss. This is of considerable interest to those of us who spend much time studying the teaching of Jesus, because in the case of his teaching he constantly exhorts-- 'let those with two good ears, listen intently'. What is there about intent and intense observation, without distractions, without multi-tasking without a let up, without fiddling with a cellphone that leads to solutions to problems and recognition of reality?

Well, for one thing, if indeed we are all solipsists, and if indeed the Fall caused the heart of everyone to turn in upon itself, then it requires much to get us out of our bubble, out of the music playing in our heads, out of our preconceived notions and points of view. This is one reason retreats often lead to breakthroughs for persons, including spiritual breakthroughs. Remove a person from all his gadgets, distractions, and work, and then see what he sees and learn what he learns. The one person in this movie who is really focused is Special Agent Barnes (aka Quaid), and it pays major dividends.

Of course this movie has its share of car chasing, and shooting, and explosions, but it is not really a movie that depends on such things. They are just the window dressing for the mental stretching exercises that are going on in this film. This is a film for thinkers, not action junkies, and thinkers who can adjust on the fly.

I had thought I might review this film with 'the Bank Job' a heist film based in an event that actually happened in London in the 70s, but that movie, whilst more of a thriller, and less of a brain teaser, is also a film that has enough raunchiness that I can't really recommend it, not to mention no one in that film has much redeeming merit. In this film, the story is otherwise. Barnes is not an anti-hero as the central figure in the 'Bank Job' is, he is a true one, and a patriot to boot. He had already taken one bullet for President Ashton, and he was prepared to do it again.

I will not spoil things by revealing the ending, but I will reassure you that the film doesn't just replay eight different persons' experiences of the same event. It does come to some closure, in the end. The bottom line of this film is that none of us are omniscient, except of course God, and therefore the more input from the more persons we can get, the more likelihood we may get the meaning of certain life events right. God made us that way, so we must depend upon and learn from each other. Its not enough to have a point of view, a vantage point, when it comes to truth and the meaning of reality. We need all the help we can get. This movie makes us think about such matters, and in an age of airhead no-brainer movies, that is truly refreshing.

4 comments:

Jeremy said...

Kent Taylor is the character, Matthew Fox is the actor. :)

Elizabeth said...

I finally saw this movie earlier this week and was more than pleasantly surprised. I'd say it's the best movie I've seen since Juno. And, as Dr. Witherington states, there are deeper themes that are clearly apparent.

To potential viewers: DON'T watch the previews, just go see the movie. The previews ruin some of the plot twists.

crystal said...

Thanks for the review. It sounds kind of like the Kurosawa movie "Rashomon".

mynogan said...

I did enjoyed the film, but my wife not as much. As I watched it, I reflected on the thought that perhaps John's various visions in the Apocalypse ought to be viewed in like manner, from different angles.