Posts Tagged ‘Forest Whitaker’

This week’s releases centre on violence and fear: a Holocaust-era drama; a test of power and control; a getaway after a fatal accident; and a gladiator who takes on challenges outside the arena. (more…)

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The Great DebatersHistory is filled with individuals that achieved great things both for themselves and for others. There are names that have been immortalized and are known by many while others are buried until someone sheds a bright light upon them. This time, someone is director/actor Denzel Washington and executive producer Oprah Winfrey.

Melvin Tolson (Washington) was a professor at Wiley College, an all-black school in Texas. In 1935, he brought together a debate team that would make history by challenging and defeating all-white colleges and eventually beating Harvard in a debate broadcast across the country. In addition, to leading his team to victory, Tolson was also helping local crop growers unionize.

The young actors brought together to tell this story (Nate Parker, Denzel Whitaker, Jurnee Smollett and Jermaine Williams) are very talented and while interviews focused on the great find Whitaker was, I think he is equally matched by Parker. As the two key characters that propel the story, they provide very different perspectives: Whitaker’s character is a boy in an adult’s world forced to come to terms with the realities of his environment, while Parker’s character is somewhat older and all too aware of the injustices faced because of the colour of their skin.

The extras include deleted scenes that are not missed and a feature containing interviews with the real-life people on which the film is based. However, an inconsistency is revealed when filmmakers say no ones knows what happened to the man Henry Lowe is based on even though the epilogue writes that he studied theology and became a minister. The second disc explores the elements that make up a period piece, such as music, costumes and design. The most interesting inclusion on this disc is samples of Tolson’s poetry, which is powerful and insightful.

DO YOU SEE WHAT I SEE?: Forest Whitaker, Dennis Quaid and Matthew Fox in a scene from Vantage Point (Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures)Vantage Point is a 90-minute puzzle and each person’s point of view represents a piece towards its solution. But like any good mystery, you have to see it to the end to know the whole story.

An international summit on terrorism, which includes Arab nations, is being held in Salamanca, Spain. However, upon his arrival, the president of the United States is shot. (Probably a good thing they have been using doubles since Reagan… but that also means there’s another Bush running around.)

The remainder of the film is told from different characters’ points of view before and after the assassination attempt. Perspectives include journalist Rex Brooks (Sigourney Weaver), returning secret service agent Thomas Barnes (Dennis Quaid), tourist Howard Lewis (Forest Whitaker), President Ashton (William Hurt), the host mayor’s bodyguard (Eduardo Noriega), and the terrorist conspirators.

What makes this film so engaging is each point of view reveals just a little more information and each story breaks at a cliffhanger. The audience rendered groans as each restart of the narrative interrupted a climactic moment; nonetheless, the need to know what happens next keeps you on the edge of your seat.

There is a terrorist bombing within the square in which the imaginary historic event was taking place. The first three renditions of this explosion are very intense as the first is a shock and the latter two survey the carnage in the blast’s wake; conversely, the subsequent images are glanced over and emotionally unattached. It may be because newscasts are always shown after the fact but particularly the first images of the explosion are quite affecting.

There is an interesting point being put forth in this film about the state of the world and the role of war in its existence. This is underlined when a dying terrorist boasts, “You can’t stop us. You’ll never stop us. This war will never end.” It makes one wonder: is the world, or humanity, reliant on conflict and bloodshed?

Unfortunately, the end of the film takes a turn toward sentimental cheese as Barnes rescues Ashton, places his hand on his chest and whispers “Mr. President, I’ve got you.” With Quaid resembling Kevin Costner (but with hair), you half expect Hurt to break into appreciative song Bodyguard-style.

If the ending were not so unintentionally funny and ill-fitting, this would be an easily recommendable assassination thriller with a twist; instead, it is only recommendable with an asterisk.