Thursday, February 28, 2008


Cast: Dennis Quaid, William Hurt, Forest Whitaker, Sigourney Weaver, Matthew Fox
Director: Pete Travis
Runtime: 90 min
Rating: *1/2
Genre: Thriller, Action

If one were to assemble a trailer out of the reactions the actors muster here from their respective vantages, when the President receives a bullet from an unknown source, I wouldn’t be surprised if young audiences could be fooled into buying the admission ticket thinking it was one of those spoofs Hollywood seems to churn with mighty potency this time of the year. Unfortunately, it isn’t one.
There’s the President’s security man, who it seems is played by a mannequin with an uncanny resemblance to Dennis Quaid, only that it seems to be sweating profusely. It is a thing of wonder how some performances manage to scrape through an entire picture barely registering more than one expression. There’s Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker, as a tourist with a video camera shooting anything and everything that finds its way to in front of him. The manner in which Whitaker acts around his new found possession gave me some unintentional chills, especially when he was around a tiny girl, and if for some reason his behavior comes across as weirder than that kid in American Beauty, I’m sure no one even in their dreams meant that. I’m also sure about one more thing – a brief montage through the audience would have thrown up more than a few faces with reactions infinitely more genuine.
This seems to be one of the early movies on a relatively new sub-genre. The film gives the game away, though quite late for my liking, when an important character observes – We’ve to tie all the loose ends. See, in a thriller, there’s only one kind of an audience band that needs that kind of a reassurance – teenagers who seem to have forgotten their way out of a dead teenager film. So what we now have, on our hands ladies and gentlemen, is the dead President movie.
The plot in question is an assassination told from multiple viewpoints, or more precisely multiple vantages. The President of the United States, played by a rather uninterested William Hurt, is in Spain to sign some deal. Just when he spreads his arms to embrace one and all, the bullet from somewhere turns out to be the first and only one. That would be the first ten odd minutes. The rest of the film essentially rewinds itself, and us, back through time and forth into these events. Again, and again. How? Why? The last question did find an echo through the audience but I believe for significantly different reasons.
The film obviously seems to be delighted with its narrative gimmick; it just cannot have enough of it. Vantages, it seems, be damned. Events shown have little plausible relation to the vantage concerned, and most of them seem to have a blurting feel to them. To some extent, cramming too. Consecutive vantages seem to have chunks from the previous reruns and we never are supposed to know why. The rule of the game is don’t ask. Damn logic. You could almost feel an epiphany around you – the filmmakers seem to have wound up watching the following DVDs – Air Force One, In the Line of Fire, Death of a President – and have capped it up with Rashomon. William Hurt even has his own moment to emulate Harrison Ford where he gets to beat the bad guy, but too bad for him, the entire sequence is an exercise in the shoddy.
There’s little reverence to plausibility in general as well. When the weapon in question turns out to be in the nearest building, and you throw your arms up in aghast please be assured you aren’t the only one. If you venture in there expecting something complex, kindly brace yourself for a miserably foolish assassination plan. There’s the ending, which is structured around a piece of ridiculous coincidence, and any script that comes up with such sort of a pack up doesn’t exactly deserve to get off the shelf. I learn the film was delayed for over one year. I can easily see enough reason why this kind of picture deserves a straight-to-DVD status, one shelf to another.
Before I forget. You cannot have your President played by a William Hurt, or a Jon Voight or a James Cromwell and expect people to believe he’s an early goner.
Another. No matter how many times you replay a bad film, from every which view it still remains a bad film.

1 comment:

Indraneel Majumdar said...

A complete mish mash of a good idea. You are bang on with your critique and I have a sneaking feel that Whitakar also had no idea where he was going with this. Bad execution!