After months of seeing the trailer for TV director Pete Travis’ first feature, Vantage Point, the movie has finally hit theaters this week—and it’s easy to see why it took so long getting here. The movie retells the same story through the eyes of separate characters, culminating in one of those big car chases that—if The Bourne Identity (2002) or Ronin (1998) are to be trusted—take place every other day in Europe. The only problem with this phony Rashomon (1950) style of storytelling is that Vantage Point doesn’t have much of interest going for it to begin with, meaning that for your $8.50 you get to see the same 20 minutes of storyline repeated over and over for 90 minutes. It’s gimmickry at its most banal and half-baked.
The basic outline is simple. While attending a terrorism conference in Spain, the U.S. president (William Hurt) is shot. This is originally shown through a TV-news broadcast, as we see the aftermath and confusion that follows, including two separate bombings. From there, the story is told through the eyes of various characters: a Secret Service agent (Dennis Quaid) back on duty after taking a bullet for the president a year earlier, an American tourist (Forest Whitaker) with a video camera, a Spanish cop (Eduardo Noriega, The Devil’s Backbone), a soldier (Edgar Ramirez, The Borne Ultimatum) and the president himself. All of this is supposedly a way to cleverly unfold the plot, except in practice, it’s rather boring. Instead of the edge-of-your-seat thrill ride the film is supposed to be, we end up spending the majority of the movie watching the same assassination and the same explosions and the same conversations over and over.
The gimmick that’s supposed to be the film’s selling point ultimately becomes the movie’s major drawback. Aside from the aforementioned redundancy of the plot, there is never any room given for character development. Other than Quaid’s Secret Service agent, the rest of the characters are simple cutouts, while the end of the film is a rush to tie up loose ends and ends up dovetailing into cheesy, hackneyed sub-Shakespearean tragedy. But then again, this is a movie that thinks the viewer is credulous enough to believe Forest Whitaker can run six city blocks at full speed without getting winded.
The entire film is sloppy and absurd. No real reason is given for any of its happenings other than the baddies are terrorists. The terrorism aspect exists for no other reason than to be sensational, like using a suicide bomber when it’s already been made obvious that these evildoers—the head of which (Said Taghmaoi, I Heart Huckabees) is of the mustache-twirling school of villainy—could just hide a bomb inside a trash can. We even get such laughably lazy, shoddy exposition as the film’s traitor stating that he “can finally stop living this double life,” with no explanation as to why or how.
Travis obviously thinks he has something heavy on his hands with his big-name cast, but most of them, other than Quaid, are wasted. Sigourney Weaver gets the cushiest role—harkening back to Ben Kingsley’s role in Bloodrayne (2005)—since she gets to sit down the entire 15 minutes she’s in the movie. Whitaker comes off the worst, giving the most overwrought, blubbery performance of his career, the kind of acting that screams “I’m a serious, Oscar-winning actor.” The wasted cast simply exemplifies the difference between what Vantage Point wanted to be, and what it actually is. Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense violence and action, some disturbing images and brief strong language.