Dennis Quaid as Thomas Barnes
Matthew Fox as Kent Taylor
Forest Whitaker as Howard Lewis
Bruce McGill as Phil McCullough
Edgar Ramirez as Javier
Saïd Taghmaoui as Suarez
Ayelet Zurer as Veronica
Zoe Saldana as Angie Jones
Sigourney Weaver as Rex Brooks
William Hurt as President Ashton
James LeGros as Ted Heinkin
Eduardo Noriega as Enrique
Richard T. Jones as Holden
Holt McCallany as Ron Matthews
Leonardo Nam as Kevin Cross
Directed by Pete Travis
A competently-made action-thriller with some clever ideas, but nothing particularly ground-breaking once it casually discards its pretense of being told from multiple points of view.
While visiting Spain for an Anti-Terror Summit, the President of the United States (William Hurt) is shot in the middle of a plaza filled with spectators and protestors, and its up to two secret service agents (Matthew Fox, Dennis Quaid), a tourist with a digital camera (Forest Whitaker), and a local police officer (Eduardo Noriega) to put the pieces of the puzzle together and find those responsible.
Did you ever get the feeling of déjà vu? If not, you should prepare yourself to get a lot of it in the first half hour of this political action-thriller that sets itself up with an overused “Rashomon”-like storytelling device to explore the shooting of the President through multiple points of view before turning into a fairly standard action movie.
It opens with Sigourney Weaver as a television producer at the news network GNN, covering the president’s trip to Spain, unhappy with the on-scene reporter’s liberal spin on things, but when the president approaches the podium to speak, he’s shot by a sniper, followed by two huge explosions. Before we can react, the film literally hits rewind and we’re introduced to Dennis Quaid as Thomas Barnes, a secret service agent whose been out of active service since taking a bullet for the president years earlier, but who’s been brought back for this major event along with his partner Kent Taylor (Matthew Fox). We see what just happened one more time from their perspective before being introduced to the Spanish police officer (Eduardo Noriega) on the scene and a tourist with a digital video camera played by Forest Whitaker in a similar manner.
With each segment, we see a little more of the story and learn more about what is going on and who everybody is, but after the fifth rewind to show what happens from the President’s perspective, the movie takes a more linear approach, getting into the nitty and gritty of the terrorist plot behind the shooting. Nothing is ever quite what it seems, but by the time the truths are revealed, the simple premise has been turned into a convoluted mess of characters. Good luck trying to keep up with all the twists and red herrings with a frenetic pace that reminds us that this is a Neil (“The Fast and the Furious”) Moritz production and the action kicks into high gear before your spinning head can get around it all.
None of the American actors are doing their best work here with Dennis Quaid giving a strained, almost phoned-in performance especially when the action stars. Fox and Whitaker aren’t much better, but that might be more a consequence of the format that doesn’t give any of their characters enough time to develop more fully, making it harder to get a feel for them. The one exception is William Hurt, who is so perfectly cast as the President that some might want him to run after watching his short segment, which is the best part of the movie. Many of the international actors show up their American counterparts by fleshing out what might normally be one-dimensional terrorist types into far more interesting characters.
After directing a Paul Greengrass script for his first film “Omagh,” Pete Travis proves himself to be a competent filmmaker who can maintain interest without slowing the pace below a brisk jog, though clearly the most impressive scene is the car chase through the streets of Spain that’s comparable to anything in the “Bourne” movies, edited with lightning precision by Stuart Baird (Casino Royale).
Even so, there’s something generally lacking in the movie that keeps it from being totally satisfying, maybe because as much as Travis tries to maintain some sort of realism, it often requires suspending all disbelief from the high-tech terrorists who can control everything with the touch of a PDA to Whitaker running through the streets of Spain to try to capture all of the action on his handheld camera, something even the most diehard YouTube fanatic would be nuts to try. Unfortunately, the film’s last 15 or 20 minutes are filled with completely unbelievable moments like those, such as the way Barnes survives without a scratch or hair out of place when a truck plows into his car, and the way everything is resolved is so standard and predictable that one wonders why the ending can’t be as smart as the skill that went to assembling this multi-angle story.
When it’s all said and done, some might be left wondering what happened to Sigourney Weaver’s character, because besides her opening segment and two small background appearances, she’s quickly forgotten. Because the film opens with a segment involving the media, one might expect that the press would provide an important point-of-view to this incident, and yet it’s so effortlessly cast aside, never to be revisited, that you wonder if the filmmakers put as much thought into this as they want you to believe.
The Bottom Line:
“Vantage Point” is far more intelligent than most mindless action films with a somewhat unique take on an overused plot device for telling its story, but its constant attempt to move at such a fast pace never gives one the necessary chance to absorb everything being revealed, so by the end, you probably won’t remember much of what you just watched.