Vantage Point, 2008
Starring Sigourney Weaver, Dennis Quaid, Matthew Fox, Forest Whitaker, Zoe Saldana, and William Hurt.
Synopsis (From IMDB):
President Ashton (William Hurt) is attending a global war on terror summit in Spain. Thomas Barnes (Dennis Quaid) and Kent Taylor (Matthew Fox) are two of the Secret Service agents assigned to protect him. This is the first action that Agent Barnes has been in since he took a bullet for President Ashton six-month earlier. We really dont know if Agent Barnes is up to the challenge of protecting the President. Shortly after President Ashton is escorted to the stage in the plaza by the Secret Service, he is shot twice by a rifle from a window and falls to the floor. The crowd is in shock and chaos breaks out all over, especially when bombs begin to explode. Howard Lewis (Forest Whitaker) is an American video-taping the event to show to his children that he was actually there at this historic event. He believes that he has the picture of the man who shot the President. Agent Barnes sees the tape and has a clue to that person. Several different people witness the event, and only through their eyes do we see the truth behind the assassination attempt.
This film takes a unique narrative format in that it shows the same event through the perception of 8 different characters and through each new viewing of the incident the spectator comes closer to omniscience. The first portrayal was from the GNN production truck in which we watched the producer keep track of the several cameras throughout the square. I bring this up because it is the most distant of the views in that we are seeing the event transpire through a television screen (which it can be argued we are doing already so make it two television screens) and the people watching it have no control over what is happening. From our limited perspective we can only see chaos.
With each retelling we are forced to re-evaluate what we saw in the previous vision, or what we (and the character) thought we saw. From one perspective a swaying curtain looks like it could be a gunman, from another it’s just a fan blowing. One character looks psychotic from the initial perspective but from another they are just trying to sound an alarm and warn of the oncoming violence.
We could walk away from this film thinking it was a good, fast-paced thriller, with a few unanswered plot points, but instead I think that this film is more than that. It calls us to question what truth truly is. We cannot believe our own eyes because our perception is limited by our “vantage point”. We also only have the information of that moment, not always the information of what led to that moment. It also shows that we are dependent on our perceptions and that when we are called to act fast we have to trust the only faculties we have. We can’t just sit blindly and depend on others for our sight.
In our own lives how frequently have we seen something “fishy” and judged people because of it? While people do make mistakes and sometimes have negative motivations (this film was about terrorism after all) I think that our perception isn’t just hindered or limited in those times of crisis, but every day. God (whether or not you believe) is the only one capable of omniscience, and it is important to realize that if only to remind us to be humble when dealing with our perceptions.
We must investigate truth from more than just our own limited view of reality, and if we confuse what we see, or our own perception for “Truth” then we are bound to compound our mistakes. We also need to forgive others for actions they take which we do not understand, and remind ourselves that they too our acting on incomplete information from their limited perspectives.
“There have issued, from His mighty Pen, various teachings for the prevention of war, and these have been scattered far and wide.
The first is the independent investigation of truth; for blind imitation of the past will stunt the mind. But once every soul inquireth into truth, society will be freed from the darkness of continually repeating the past.” ~‘Abdu’l-Bahá
If anything this film reminds us to take pause and to realize that truth is greater than our own bubble, our own incomplete slice of reality. Even these words I am using can only adequately but not exactly describe the concepts I am trying to convey because concepts our so much more complex than we can ever explain. Instead we have to make do with what we have- our narrow point of view, our incomplete command of language, our lack of precision- and remind ourselves to collect as much information as we can before judging a situation lest our judgments be misinformed and wrong. And regarding the ideas of judgment and justice I leave you with two quotes from the Hidden Words which address both sides of this issues- the importance of Justice and yet our limitations when trying to pass judgment:
O SON OF SPIRIT! The best beloved of all things in My sight is Justice; turn not away therefrom if thou desirest Me, and neglect it not that I may confide in thee. By its aid thou shalt see with thine own eyes and not through the eyes of others, and shalt know of thine own knowledge and not through the knowledge of thy neighbor. Ponder this in thy heart; how it behooveth thee to be. Verily justice is My gift to thee and the sign of My loving-kindness. Set it then before thine eyes.
O SON OF BEING! How couldst thou forget thine own faults and busy thyself with the faults of others? Whoso doeth this is accursed of Me.