The Films of Pete Travis
Vantage Point (February 21/08)
The gimmick at the heart of Vantage Point - the same event is shown from the perspective of several different characters - ultimately proves to be the least effective element within the proceedings, as there's little doubt that the film improves considerably once it adopts a linear structure somewhere around the one-hour mark. The storyline - which revolves around the events leading up to and following the assassination of the President (William Hurt) - certainly seems as though it would've benefited from a more traditional approach, with the inclusion of several mini cliffhangers and a myriad of plot twists admittedly holding the viewer's interest yet infusing the movie with the feel of a similarly-themed television show (ie imagine a full season of 24 or Alias compressed into a 90-minute feature). And while the repetitive vibe proves instrumental in maintaining an air of mystery, it does become difficult to overlook the increasingly superfluous nature of the film's intricate modus operandi. Pete Travis' hopelessly derivative, flat-out distracting directorial choices (shaky camerawork, rapid-fire editing, etc, etc) notwithstanding, Vantage Point's final half hour is as thrilling and exciting as one might've hoped - though it's impossible not to wish the filmmakers had gone for an R-rating (ie lots of people are bloodlessly shot). The exhilarating car chase that closes the movie is alone worth the price of admission, and it goes without saying that fans of the various actors - particularly Dennis Quaid and Matthew Fox - will surely find plenty here worth embracing.
Dredd (February 9/18)
Based on the comic book series, Dredd transpires in a post-apocalyptic landscape and follows Karl Urban's title character as he and his new partner (Olivia Thirlby's Anderson) attempt to take down a vicious drug dealer (Lena Headey's Ma-Ma). Filmmaker Pete Travis establishes an atmosphere of persistent unpleasantness right from the get-go, as Dredd contains an often distractingly ugly visual sensibility that's ubiquitous and, ultimately, nothing short of disastrous (ie there's not a single scene here that doesn't come off as a complete eyesore). The movie's hands-off atmosphere is compounded and perpetuated by a variety of less-than-appealing elements, with Urban's one-note turn as the bland protagonist certainly standing head and shoulders above the film's many, many problems. The actor, trapped within the confines of an oversized helmet, proves unable or unwilling to infuse his character with any notes aside from steely determination, and it's clear that Dredd's lack of humanity, which grows tiresome almost immediately, prevents the viewer from working up any interest in his ongoing exploits. And although the film does improve slightly in its final stretch, Dredd nevertheless comes off as a hopelessly misbegotten adaptation that suffers from an almost complete dearth of positive attributes. (The copious, bloody violence is certainly quite appreciated, however.)
City of Tiny Lights