So, does Babylon A.D. get an "A" or a "D" on its scorecard? Maybe it will depend on which version of the movie you get to see in the years to come. This film got my attention as another one of those movies that shatters auteur theory into jagged little pieces.
The French director, Mathieu Kassovitz even hates his own movie now that it has been taken away from him by the studio and bailed out by the production's insurance company after it went over budget and well beyond the film schedule. Maybe Babylon A.D. will get revisited on DVD in its former "glory."
Its current "glory" is like an annoying, predictable firework. The movie is a cross between "The Fifth Element" and "Children of Men" without any of the playful fun of the former, and none of the intensity of the latter. Barely any of the movie takes place in New York, as the advertisements would have me believe, which may have something to do with the production going over budget (You can tell this is the New York of the future, though, because there are lots of neon advertisements splattered across the sides of buildings). The action sequences are chaotic, which may have something to do with the production going over budget, or something to do with the close-up, shaky hand-held footage. The embarrassingly tacked-on sequence of a snowmobile chase looks terrible, like it is being streamed on low-bandwidth internet connection, which may have something to do with how cold it was when they were filming. The story is nothing original, but it is possible to engage an audience even with a predictable story depending on how you tell it, and how this story was told may have something to do with the production going over budget, something to do with the studio cutting its costs, and something to do with how long it can take to make some stories work.
Vantage Point is chock full of totally implausible character connections and plot points, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. It is tightly edited. It never really slows down. It is like a 2-hour long-distance sprint. A plot to kill the president of the United States is split into half a dozen perspectives, and the film explores one perspective at a time, rolling back the clock for each new section in order to revisit the same events from different angles. At least, that was the idea. As the film moves on, it looses its grip on the ability to stick with any one Vantage Point. This is no Rashomon or Courage Under Fire (both of which examined wildly varying perspectives and individualized memories of shared events). The psychological landscapes of the characters in this film are pretty barren. Capital-T Truth is not a relative phenomena in Vantage Point. There are no question marks left by the time the credits roll, which is satisfying, in its own way. The film baits you with some half-revealed information at the end of each section, and makes you wait for future sections to find out a little bit more. In fact, several of these sections cut away at ridiculous moments, like commercial breaks, that recall cheap television cliffhanging strategies, as if to make sure you don't click over to some other station. This is a thriller that uses different perspectives merely as a device to withhold and then reveal information. Eventually, the movie becomes a familiar thriller/action movie with all vantage points given at once. And I have to say, it does an excellent job at that level. In fact, for what it was, it was a hoot: high energy, intense acting, the promise revelation, and the unveiling of an impressively devised plot to assassinate the president.