Think it’s too early to build a new film theory for the 21st century? Mine is simple. The old stars are dead. Just look at the odd parade of people collecting Oscars last Sunday while George Clooney and Julie Christie sat in the audience. Likewise, in movies it’s becoming clear that any project with more than one People magazine-level celeb ensures vapidity. I base this caveat on a little something I call the Ocean’s Eleven Paradigm, expressed in mathematical terms thus: The sum of the inherent entertainment value of any project (to an intelligent viewer) is diminished by an equal or greater value by the number of celebrities making up the product base. Thus, if a film, like this one, has three stars (Dennis Quaid, Sigourney Weaver, William Hurt), and one who should know better (Forest Whitaker), then it is reduced by a full four stars out of the possible five allowed by the renowned Maltin-meter. However, giving this noisy, tired film any stars seems generous considering how shamelessly it bends narrative time to cover up a crappy plot.
Actually, let’s back up and consider another point of view. The story might appeal to John McCain supporters hoping to keep us in Iraq for the next 100 years. At the opening of an international end-to-terrorism conference, the president of the United States (a plump, unguent Hurt) is assassinated. Story over? Sorry: The film keeps restarting itself and filtering in bits of info (apparently Islamic terrorists are sneaky, but the American Secret Service are formidably cool) supplied from fresh perspectives-except nothing’s fresh. (At the screening I attended, the audience audibly groaned at each abysmal reboot.)
But wait, you say, what about another perspective? Whitaker is a man of sterling theatrical achievement, an Academy Award-winner-surely he must be great. If by “great” you mean overacting that achieves levels not known since Jim Carrey in Batman Forever, then yes, you are right: Forest Whitaker is great.
Hold on there; rewind. There must be something good to say about this film. Well, there are a lot of stars in it.