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Vantage Point

Movie Review


Published February 26, 2008 at 9:15 p.m.

Any way you look at it, this is one chuckle-headed excuse for a Rashomon rip-off. Previously credible indie filmmaker Pete (Omagh) Travis has gone Hollywood with Vantage Point, a star-studded dud that replays an attempt on the life of a U.S. president over and over from the points of view of multiple characters. For 90 minutes. Now, an hour and a half is short, as running times go these days. In the case of the director’s latest, however, it feels like a punishing eternity

The setting is the city of Salamanca, Spain. The occasion is a multinational antiterrorism summit at which the American leader, played by William Hurt, is set to make an opening statement. The shocking development is that terrorists make a statement instead, by gunning him down before he can utter word one and then blowing the place sky-high. A terrorist attack on an antiterrorism event held in a public square in broad daylight — who could’ve seen that coming

Well, U.S. intelligence, as it turns out. Advised of a “credible threat” against the president, the White House does what one is evidently expected to believe White Houses have been doing secretly for years. It sends the presidential double in his place. That’s right: There’s a guy who just happens to look and sound exactly like the leader of the free world. Wackier than that, he applied for the job of getting shot at in the president’s place. (Couldn’t he make a better living on Leno as a presidential impersonator?) Wackier still, the real POTUS and his staff, watching from the safety of a nearby hotel, actually act surprised when the assassination transpires

But the boneheadedness has only begun. In the crowd at the summit’s opening ceremonies is an American tourist (Forest Whitaker) with a camcorder. He thinks he’s captured the assassin on tape and chases the suspect as he hightails it from the scene, continuing to film as he dodges traffic and raising the question: Does Forest Whitaker running technically qualify as “movie action”

In time we learn that the chap he’s pursuing (Eduardo Noriega) is, in fact, a Spanish plainclothes police officer. Oops. The reason the cop left in such a hurry has less to do with the heinous crime against humanity he’s just witnessed than with a suspicion that his girlfriend may be cheating on him. In flashback, we see him spot her talking to a handsome stranger and decide to tail her to what he believes will be a romantic rendezvous

A subsequent rehash of events from the officer’s girlfriend’s POV takes us inside the very terrorist cell responsible for the day’s atrocities. And here Travis and first-time screenwriter Barry Levy attain maximum ludicrosity. Movie critic law forbids me from going into detail, but take my word for it: The script’s shameless succession of red herrings, coincidences, surprise twists and characters who are not what they seem will have you losing your Goobers, you’ll be laughing so hard

You know an all-star production’s jumped the rails when a star of Sigourney Weaver’s stature makes an early appearance, utters a few stilted lines and, inexplicably, is never heard from again. It doesn’t help matters that, by the time he reached the third act, director Travis succumbed to the delusion that he was hired to helm a new Bourne sequel. How else to explain the shaky-cammed last 15 to 20 minutes of the film, in which Secret Service agent Dennis Quaid tears up and down the ancient city’s streets, shooting it out with the bad guys

The conclusion ranks with the most cretinous in screen history, not a minute of the movie’s action rings true, and Levy’s dialogue is an affront to the language. Watching the picture’s key events unfold once would have been borderline tiresome. Watching as they’re rewound and replayed half a dozen times is guaranteed to leave most viewers wondering what on Earth the film’s creators could have thought was the point.