“Eight strangers. Eight points of view. One truth,” thunders the poster for this tricksy thriller about the attempted assassination of the US President (William Hurt) during a summit in Spain. Like Rashomon through a sniper scope, each characters’ view of the shooting and subsequent terrorist bombing dovetails together as British helmer Pete Travis (Omagh) regularly rewinds the action to show us that what we thought was true wasn’t and what we thought was lies was truth. Or something...
Actually, it’s never quite clear what either the advantage or the point of Vantage Point’s self-consciously clever plotting is, other than to show how smart the filmmakers are. The design simply forces viewers to stay one step behind not-so-smart protagonists like Dennis Quaid’s jittery Secret Service agent, Forest Whitaker’s good-egg tourist with a DV-cam and Sigourney Weaver’s bullish TV producer. It’s annoyingly constrictive.
It’s also over-familiar. Kennedy assassination flick Bobby experimented with a similar multiple viewpoint gimmick and even Channel 4’s hackle-raising doc Death Of A President pre-empted the guilty pleasure of imagining the Commander in Chief taking lead. Most of all, though, Vantage Point feels like an episode of 24: frantic against-the-clock car chases and some plot twists that even Jack Bauer would choke on.
After a while each new rewind of the action simply annoys you into nitpicking the glaring flaws, like the villains’ penchant for moustache-twirling expositionary dialogue (“That should keep him busy!” Insert your own evil ha-ha-ha laugh...) or the slapdash CGI back projection that hamstrings the filmmakers’ stab at rolling news realism.
Half-arsed jabs at the current occupant of the White House add some spice: Hurt’s kindly old Prez refuses to bomb a Muslim country and warns his hawkish advisors against squandering the world’s sympathy following the assassination attempt (compare Bush’s response after 9/11). Ultimately, though, the poster’s right. There’s only one truth in Vantage Point: it’s a risible waste of ninety minutes. Clockwatching Jack Bauer would have wrapped the whole thing up before the first ad break and still had time to do a bit of state-sanctioned torturing...
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Despite trying to shoot to thrill this improbable action thriller fires nothing but blanks. Big name stars and a decent car chase can't redeem the missing pieces in the jigsaw puzzle screenplay. It's like a retarded remake of 24.