“Is everything going to plan?"
Cleverly conceived as '24' meets Rashomon, Vantage Point follows the events of an attempt to kill the US President, depicting the same 23 minutes repeatedly, but from different characters perspectives. It's a neat concept, but by the end of the movie, you might just feel like you've seen it all before.
Back on the job after taking a bullet for the US President (William Hurt), burnt out Secret Service Agent Thomas Barnes (Dennis Quaid) and his partner (Matthew Fox) are assigned to protect the US President, before he signs and anti terror agreement. When the president is shot and two bombs detonated minutes later, it's clear everything is not going to plan.
Telling the story from the multiple perspectives including those of a TV News Producer, a Spanish Cop and a Special Forces soldier blackmailed into taking part when his brother is kidnapped, British director Pete Travis does a good job of holding the audiences attention while effectively showing the same event over and over and over again, peppering the proceedings with a car chase, explosions and gun fights to keep things exciting, until making the big reveal in the final act, allowing the audience to finally see what happens next. Casting old reliables such as William Hurt, Dennis Quaid and Sigourney Weaver to good effect (Forest Whitaker is sadly wasted in a role that is mostly inconsequential to the plot), it is the largely unknown Spanish actor Eduardo Noriega and Venezuelan Édgar Ramírez who really manage to stand out from the crowd, despite the films casual xenophobia.
Typically for an American produced film, almost all foreigners are up to no good, while most Americans are there to save the day. Considering that America has been dragged into two disastrous wars of questionable motives over the last few years, it is worrying that (with the noticeable exceptions of films like ‘Syriana’ & ‘The Kingdom’) Hollywood still largely represents foreigners as 'bad guys', faceless cannon fodder (do Americans really think foreigners are so disposable?) or helpless innocents that have to be saved ... by Americans. No effort is made to understand (or even mention for that matter) the motives of the terrorists, instead the audience is simplistically asked to just believe they are ‘evil’ (while strangely Secret Service Agents shooting at local police is deemed acceptable). Considering the complexities of the modern world, it is worrying that Hollywood has such little faith in the intelligence of it's audience and still chooses to convey things as simply black and white.
Despite some big plot holes (a terrorist who just set off a bomb in a crowd of people, swerves and crashes rather than hit a child with their vehicle?), Mexico standing in for Spain, a lead villain who is about as threatening as a 'Care Bear' and an overly convenient (i.e. forced) final act, Vantage Point is still a very entertaining film that is more engaging that most paint by numbers thrillers. It's not going to give any deep insights into terrorism or American foreign policy, but it does make for a solid pulp entertainment.