Special to The History Place
No historian, at least none of a certain age, can see Vantage Point
without recalling the Zapruder Film. On November 22, 1963, Abraham
Zapruder stood in Dallas's Dealey Plaza, filming JFK's motorcade with
his 8mm Kodachrome movie camera. Zapruder's 486 frames are without any
doubt the most carefully perused and hotly debated 26 seconds of film
of the 20th century. Historians, conspiracy theorists, journalists,
and movie makers have variously contended that the footage proves that
Oswald acted alone, or that he didn't, that the president was hit from
behind and/or from the front, that shooters fired from the so-called
grassy knoll, or that they didn't.
Vantage Point is the answer to the JFK-assassination junkie's
dream. The film, which features Dennis Quaid as a Secret Service agent
and Forest Whitaker as a tourist with a video camera, has the president
of the United States appearing in a Spanish plaza, prefatory to a world
summit on terrorism. Just past noon, as POTUS poses at the podium, an
assassin's bullets rip the air. Multiple explosions follow, throwing
the throng into a panic and setting a complex conspiracy into motion.
True to the film's title, the plaza incident is re-run four times.
Viewers see the incident first through the multiple lenses of a major
TV network, under the direction of a tough newswoman (Sigourney Weaver).
Subsequent replays show us what Whitaker's single lens captured, as
well as what the president's security detail and the terrorist leader
One must assume that Director Pete Travis and Screenwriter Barry Levy
had Dealey Plaza 45 years ago in their minds' eyes, as they developed
and filmed this project. We, the film goers, have the cinematic equivalent
here of what every historian of the Sixties and every conspiracy buff
who believes Oswald was a "patsy" would give his eye teeth
to possess: multiple perspectives on the crucial 26 seconds of history
that belong now only to Abraham Zapruder's home movie footage.
Vantage Point also brought to this writer's mind a scene from
Oliver Stone's controversial 1991 film JFK. In that tour de
force, Joe Pesci's ultra-paranoid David Ferrie tells Kevin Costner's
Jim Garrison, the dogged New Orleans DA, "This is a riddle inside
an enigma wrapped in a mystery." Stone and Pesci can be forgiven
for borrowing Winston Churchill's 1939 comment about the Soviet Union.
The Kennedy assassination is exactly that.
Vantage Point uses masterful editing to illustrate how 21st
century electronics can peel away the layers of the enigmatic onion.
The movie also eerily illustrates how a conspiracy, as unlikely as it
is difficult to disprove in the case of Kennedy's killing, might be
orchestrated in our age of cell phones, Blackberries, and robotics.
At the end of this fast-paced, high-action film, the viewer is left
with the sense that nothing in the rather complex plot is beyond the
realm of potential.
Although mainland America has been attack-free since September 11,
2001, both London and (as Vantage Point reminds us with an angry
mob of anti-American protesters who meet the POTUS motorcade at the
entrance of the plaza) Spain have suffered severe terrorist attacks
during the intervening years. And plots have been foiled in New Jersey
and elsewhere around our own nation.
Vantage Point, which opened last week, tantalizes us over what
we might know about 11/22/63, had the technology existed, and cautions
us about what may yet be our destiny, if we fail to appreciate the power
that modern technology places in the hands of international terrorists
Rated PG-13 for intense violence and action,
some disturbing images and brief strong language.