Starring: Dennis Quaid, Matthew Fox, Forest Whitaker, Bruce
McGill, Edgar Ramirez, William Hurt. Rated PG-13.
For those suffering through the
strike-prolonged hiatus of 24, which
will keep Jack Bauer inactive until early 2009, you could do worse than Vantage
Point, which depicts the attempted
assassination of an American president from the perspectives of five startled
onlookers and a labyrinthine network of terrorists. Of course, you could also
do a lot better.
Taking a cue from Kurosawa, whose Rashomon recreated a murder from the dubious (and often
contradictory) accounts of four who were present, Vantage Point teases us with the recollections of eyewitnesses who see
but fail to understand. Gathered in Salamanca, Spain, for a counterterrorism
summit, they include a world-weary news executive (Sigourney Weaver), barking
orders at subordinates even as they are engulfed in the chaos of the moment; an
American tourist (Forest Whitaker) who captures every relevant clue with his
high-definition camera; and an earnest president (William Hurt) who suggests,
ever hopefully, that “we have to do better.”
Dennis Quaid, as a
once-bitten Secret Service agent shaken by a prior assassination attempt. As
the movie’s all-American hero, he is not so much a man as an indestructible
force. He survives a bomb scare and two high-speed collisions, all in a matter
of minutes, and still manages to sprint his way to a High Noon-style showdown with his erstwhile partner. If he’s less
introspective than Clint Eastwood’s character from In the
Line of Fire, he can be forgiven: Quaid is not expected to think, just
to react on some primal level, and Vantage Point demands roughly the same of its audience.
inclined to scrutinize the logic of Barry Levy's screenplay are likely to come away as baffled by its far-fetched twists as
amused by its bombastic excesses. Quite simply, there's too much going on. Director Pete Travis, whose quite-cut camerawork
lends a frenetic feel to the proceedings, keeps the action lean and focused early on, but Vantage Point barrels off the tracks during its overwrought
finale. By the time we find Whitaker racing through the city in a frantic bid to save an endangered child who has the suspect
look of a plot device, our patience is spent.