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February 27, 2008 > Movie Review: Vantage Point - An interesting concept gone awry

Movie Review: Vantage Point - An interesting concept gone awry

By Joe Samagond

"Vantage Point" has a gripping premise that seems to start out well. It explores how a single event can be witnessed in completely different ways with each person having a different story to tell. It has the potential of an engrossing Bourne movie or a Harrison Ford flick. In a Spanish town square, the U.S. president (William Hurt) is about to address a global summit on terrorism. Moments after stepping to the podium, he is struck by an assassin's bullet; a minute later, a bomb explodes, killing dozens. The scenario unfolds from the point of view of a CNN-style news outfit (called GNN!), its producer (Sigourney Weaver) issuing orders from a command center. The movie then ''rewinds,'' and we see the same tense few minutes played out again - this time from the perspective of the Secret Service agent Thomas Barnes (Dennis Quaid) who had tried to stop the man he thought was the assassin. Then we see the events rewound again and again...six times. The gimmick must have looked good on paper but is painful when you are the target of this ridiculous experiment.

The movie has an excellent cast that includes Matthew Fox as Secret Service and Forest Whitaker as a tourist whose video recording stands as the modern equivalent of the Zapruder film (ref: JFK assassination). Other actors include a Salamanca cop (Eduardo Noriega), his girlfriend (Ayelet Zurer), a friendly mystery man (Said Taghmaoui) and a Spanish special-services soldier (Edgar Ramirez).

Security is omnipresent in the square around where the summit takes place, along with reporters, hordes of anti-US protesters, and apparently a number of terrorists. Initially we are focused on Barnes who was on leave after suffering from a post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of a prior presidential assassination attempt. He has been called back into duty to guard the President Ashton, and is sweating it out in private over having to face this new assignment. Given his nervousness, it is incredulous that he is actually put back in charge to protect the life of POTUS (President of the US). Also present in the square is Forest Whitaker's far too curious American tourist taking it all in with his camcorder.

There is much to disbelieve. Characters race after cars on foot and not only keep pace, but occasionally gain ground. People get shot but keep going. The same handful of people from the President down to a little girl who lost her ice cream keep impossibly colliding with each other amid the chaos, even though they are surrounded by thousands of other people who are constantly running driven by panic. And there's also the matter of several characters getting run over more than once and emerging unscathed from car wrecks.

The pace is so frantic that one cannot anchor onto any of the characters, and the performers are stuck repeating empty dialogues as we wait for the same gunshots, explosions and chases to happen again. There's no point to the movie as it meanders towards a predictable end. "Vantage Point" does not cover all its bases, in particular when it comes to some character motives taken to extremes and the lack of a clear political context for all the ensuing mayhem, including the masses of summit protesters. The movie comes to a thankful end with another coincidence and an underwhelming dénouement. "Vantage Point" is truly a lost opportunity.

Rated: PG-13
Running time: 90 minutes

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