Vantage Point is an unintentionally funny thriller
By Sheri Linden
Straight out of the slice-and-dice school of film-making, Vantage Point fractures chronology and perspective in a vain attempt to disguise its flimsiness.
Director Pete Travis has assembled an international cast to exploit the vaguest of notions about terrorism in Barry L. Levy’s script. Tracing a half-hour period of a calamitous day from multiple points of view, the screenplay tosses in an of-the-moment camcorder angle. But there’s no rhyme, reason or intrigue in this story of a presidential assassination, and unintentional laughs outnumber the moments of suspense.
The action—the film is all incident and mechanics, with no context, reflection or resonance—unfolds, over and over, in Salamanca, Spain. World leaders have gathered for a groundbreaking World Summit Against Terrorism, and the president of the US (William Hurt) is about to speak at a midday rally in the city’s Plaza Mejor. In a mobile studio near the plaza, a TV news producer, Rex (Sigourney Weaver, in a brief, by-the-numbers turn), orchestrates her channel’s coverage of the event. Rex is surprised to see Thomas Barnes (Dennis Quaid) among the Secret Service agents. Bullets seem to follow Barnes; President Ashton is shot moments after beginning his remarks. Two explosions go off, followed by pandemonium, a freeze frame and a flash-backward through the preceding 19 minutes of the film.
The action stops again and rewinds, as it will do several times more, to take viewers through the events immediately surrounding the attacks. Tedium, not depth, accumulates. Intended big reveals are ho-hum, and each retelling merely adds a piece or two of information, along with increasingly ludicrous action.
Roving cameras, quick cuts and propulsive music keep things moving, but they can’t make them matter. Playing barely conceptualized stock characters, the actors provide rudimentary performances.
In the central role, one probably meant to evoke the kind of conflicted heroism of Clint Eastwood’s character in In the Line of Fire, Quaid comes closest to suggesting a human being. With his clenched body language, he clearly is trying to get under Barnes’ skin. But unlike Eastwood, Quaid is given nothing to work with in this hamfisted scenario.
Depp is bloody good in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
By Kirk Honeycutt
It’s 19th century London and everyone is singing, but when arterial blood sprays from the opened throat of Signor Adolfo Pirelli, you know this is no My Fair Lady.
Stephen Sondheim’s award-winning musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, a savage tale of cannibalism, madness and serial murder, is now Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. The show couldn’t have fallen into better hands. With realistic gore replacing the stylistic bloodletting in the stage version, Sweeney loses some of its darkly comic tone—not a lot of laughs here except the nervous kind.
Sweeney Todd comes from an obscure British melodrama—which might or might not have been based on true 18th century events—about a deranged barber who slit the throats of customers and his landlady who served the victims up in meatpies.
Except for imaginary sequences or flashbacks to happier days, the film has a monochromatic look with colour drained from cityscape. Johnny Depp and Bonham Carter dress mostly in stark dark clothes with black circles around the eyes, almost as if the figures in Burton’s Corpse Bride served as models.
Depp is the movie’s heart and guts. His Sweeney, nee Benjamin Barker—having escaped false imprisonment in Australia after 15 years—is ruled by revenge upon his return to London. Presented with his razors, which Lovett (Bonham Carter) has lovingly guarded all these years, he grasps a blade with his firm right hand. “At last, my arm is complete again,” he thunders.
His homicidal rage centres on Judge Turpin (a dour Alan Rickman), a vile sexual predator who had Benjamin arrested by henchman Beadle Bamford (a smarmy Timothy Spall) so he can steal Benjamin’s wife (Laura Michelle Kelly) and baby daughter. Sweeney learns that his wife poisoned herself and Turpin, who took the baby as his ward, lusts after the now grown woman Johanna (a wan Jayne Wisener). Anthony (Jamie Campbell Bower), a young sailor who rescued Sweeney at sea, now longs to do likewise for Johanna on land.
The musical numbers ooze with Sondheim’s audacious wit and scathing lyrics. A lullaby conveys menace. A waltz celebrates conspiracy. Cynicism runs through all the songs’ social critique.
The blood juxtaposed to the music is highly unsettling. It runs contrary to expectations. Burton pushes this gore into his audiences’ faces so as to feel the madness and the destructive fury of Sweeney’s obsession. Teaming with Depp, his long-time alter ego, Burton makes Sweeney a smouldering dark pit of fury and hate that consumes itself. With his sturdy acting and surprisingly good voice, Depp is a Sweeney Todd for the ages.