Vantage Point opens with a bang, literally. The President of the United States (William Hurt) is in Spain for an anti-terrorism summit. He is assassinated in front of the masses while giving a speech, and moments later an explosion rocks the area where the event was taking place. We see this shocking occurrence from the viewpoint of a cable news network producer (Sigourney Weaver) who is guiding the channel’s coverage.
Right when things start to get interesting, the film rewinds and we see everything all over again, this time from the perspective of a secret service agent (Dennis Quaid) who’s back on the job after taking a bullet for the commander-in-chief a year before. Then the film rewinds once more and we see the exact same sequence of events through the eyes of a camcorder-wielding tourist (Forrest Whittaker). Rewind again. Now the event as experienced by the President. Rewind again. Now as seen by a Spanish cop. Rewind again…
Now I know how Bill Murray felt in Groundhog Day.
Vantage Point seemingly has a cool premise, but it’s undone by one very fatal flaw: the story, as written here, isn’t interesting enough to tell once, much less six times. Every time the film started rewinding, I groaned in agony. Yes, you get a little more information with each new telling, but you also have the frustration of never being able to fully become involved with the story because you know it’s just going to be interrupted again before long.
Maybe that would have been okay had the conspiracy made any sense. Which it doesn’t. There’s some business about the kidnapped brother of a terrorist, and anti-terrorism legislation the president is supporting, and a mystery woman straddling the line between the terrorists and the Spanish cop. I couldn’t make heads or tails of it, even after all the viewpoints had been revealed.
Compounding the problem is Vantage Point’s willingness to cheat. In its desire to pull the rug out from under us, there are two utterly preposterous plot twists. One is blatantly revealed in the film’s advertising (but I won’t spoil it here). The other is that oldest of clichés: the “surprise” bad guy. It’s perfectly reasonable to ask why this character is involved in an assassination plot. It’s equally reasonable to wonder how this person could be connected to terrorists.
As far as the movie is concerned, you can shove your questions. It has a climactic car chase to stage! And there’s nothing like a good old-fashioned car chase to distract the audience from the fact that your plot has more holes than Swiss cheese. Unfortunately, even the chase feels sub-par. It goes for some of that Bourne vibe, but comes up staggeringly short.
What a waste of an A-list cast. Forrest Whitaker is particularly lost here. He runs around with a video camera, makes empathetic faces at a little girl who is trapped amidst the chaos, and participates in one of the silliest damsel-in-distress scenes to hit the big screen in years. Perhaps he can take comfort knowing that Quaid, Weaver, and Hurt are all stuck in this leaky boat with him.
I’m not going to waste any more time analyzing Vantage Point. What should have been an innovative thriller is instead a complete mess – a bad idea, poorly executed. At least, that’s how I see it from my vantage point.
( out of four)
Vantage Point is rated R for sequences of intense violence and action, some disturbing images and brief strong language. The running time is 1 hour and 30 minutes.
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