During an historic counter-terrorism summit in Spain, the President of the United States is struck down by an assassin's bullet. Eight strangers have a perfect view of the kill, but what did they really see? As the minutes leading up to the fatal shot are replayed through the eyes of each eyewitness, the reality of the assassination takes shape. But just when you think you know the answer, the shattering final truth is revealed. VANTAGE POINT is a mindbending political action-thriller starring Dennis Quaid, Matthew Fox, Academy Award® Winner Forest Whitaker (Best Actor 2006, The Last King of Scotland), with Sigourney Weaver and Academy Award® winner William Hurt (Best Actor 1985, Kiss of the Spider Woman).
, which aspires to be a cunningly twisted thriller, comes equipped with plenty of hurtling action, handheld camerawork, what-was-that? editing, and a plot that has multiple, contradictory agendas writhing like a nest of snakes. It's all set a-boil within a few blocks of a town square in Spain where a U.S. President is targeted for assassination. Although the movie lasts 90 minutes, the events it depicts are mostly over with in a quarter-hour or so--but seen, rewound, and reseen from half a dozen different (you guessed it) vantage points. The first line in the credits reads "Original Film," apparently the name of the production company. "Gimmick Movie" would be more accurate; the opening reel, effectively jolting, affords an initial overview of the events through the eyes, lenses, monitors, and dueling sensibilities of a TV news producer (Sigourney Weaver), her activist-minded reporter (Zoe Saldana) and crew. Everybodys in Salamanca (actually, Mexico City) for the start of an international conference to reaffirm Arab-Western commitment to the fight against terrorism. Terrorism, of course, sees this as an ideal moment to break out. As gunshots and explosions reduce everything to chaos, the clock is reset to zero and we proceed to revisit the scene as experienced by several Secret Service agents (namely Dennis Quaid and Matthew Fox), an American tourist with camcorder (Forest Whitaker), sundry locals--including three who may be caught up in a love triangle or a conspiracy or both--and even the President himself (William Hurt).
For a while, this is mildly diverting: that guy, or that gesture, so sinister when glimpsed across the plaza in one run-through, now appears harmless in close-up--or vice versa. But there's no real ambiguity (so stop with the careless comparisons to Kurosawa's Rashomon
)--this is a shell game in which the peas aren't worth tracking. Despite decent actors, the characters might as well be holograms (although poor Forest Whitaker is saddled with "motivation" of surpassing sappiness), and the casting telegraphs several twists: one redoubtable good guy practically gives a wink-wink, nudge-nudge that he's really bad, etc. The movie declines to specify which nutjob philosophy the terrorists espouse, and their numbers are multi-ethnic. There's also a laborious suggestion that they have bloodthirsty, reactionary counterparts among the President's inner circle, which perhaps qualifies as redeeming socio-political comment and prompts a meaningless declaration of deep meaning from the Prez. The whole megilleh finally comes down to an extended car chase through impassably claustrophobic streets that would mark a lurch into unintentional self-parody--if only that point hadn't been passed a couple of rewinds earlier. --Richard T. Jameson
Stills from Vantage Point (click for larger image)