A so-so thriller with an intriguing premise, Pete Travis’ Vantage Point tells the story of a presidential assassination from 8 different points of view.
We start with Sigourney Weaver in a trailer directing news footage of President Ashton (William Hurt) arriving at an anti-terrorism summit in Spain. Soon the president is shot and chaos ensues as bombs begin to go off.
Stop. Rewind. The same sequence is told from the point of view of secret service agent Thomas Barnes (Dennis Quaid), and a few more gaps are filled in the story. Repeat with bystander Howard Lewis (Forest Whitaker), etc., etc., until we get to the terrorists and things become crystal clear.
The film pulls off this gimmick rather well, giving us just enough added information to justify our watching the same sequence repeated, while keeping enough from us to compel us to keep watching.
That the plot is one big, preposterous mess when it is all unraveled is unfortunate but somewhat expected.
What we’re left with is a middling episode of 24 told by way of Rashomon, but without the ambiguous themes of truth and perception; no, there’s no discrepancies between the various viewpoints here, as everything is told straightforward and fits together like a jigsaw puzzle.
They even abandon the different point-of-view premise during the last half hour, resolving the story as cleanly as possible so as not to confuse Joe Moviegoer.
One wonders why they chose the concept at all. The answer, of course: the story told any other way is strictly TV-level material.
Ultimately, while the film works on its own terms (it does, at least, make for a decent episode of 24) it’s destined to please no one: too commercial for artsy tastes, too repetitious and gimmicky for action fans.