Vantage Point (PG-13) ★★★

Review Date: February 22nd, 2008

As a refreshing change of pace from other action films of its ilk, Vantage Point packs a wallop with its clever staging.


Vantage Point gives us just that--a birds-eyed view of an assassination/terrorist attack on the U.S. president. In Spain, at a landmark outdoor summit on the global war on terror, President Ashton (William Hurt) is shot and a bomb explodes, killing hundreds of people. For the rest of the film, we see the same 15 minutes over and over but from different points of view: There's a CNN-like news producer (Sigourney Weaver), who is the first to witness the events; the Secret Service agents (Dennis Quaid and Matthew Fox) assigned to protect the president; an American tourist (Forest Whitaker) videotaping the historic event; a Spanish cop (Eduardo Noriega) who suspects what's going down by the surreptitious actions of his girlfriend (Ayelet Zurer) at the rally; and most importantly, the head terrorist (Said Taghmaoui), who orchestrates it all. Through each of these individual perspectives, we learn the truth behind the assassination attempt--and as far-fetched as it is, it still isn't pretty.


This is an all-out action thriller, folks--quiet, subtle performances are not required. Quaid goes full blast as the veteran Secret Service agent, who has already taken a bullet for the president once before and is still a bit skittish about it. But his loyalty to the president never wavers, and it's through his determination to find out what happened that propels the story forward. Fox also plays it to the hilt, much like he does as Jack on TV's Lost, but the actor has a certain movie-star quality to him; he could easily transition from TV to film. Whitaker unfortunately has to play the big schlub with a heart--which, at this point, seems a tad beneath the Oscar-winner--but he still gives it his all. Hurt's Head of State is another one of those dream presidents we wish we had. Taghmaoui (The Kite Runner) and Zurer (28 Weeks Later) are adequately cold-hearted as the terrorists, while Edgar Ramirez (Domino) effectively emotes as a reluctant member of the terrorist cell, forced to do their bidding while his brother is being held captive. Did we mention that the terrorists were cold-hearted? Right.


Vantage Point's trio of film editors (Stuart Baird, Sigvaldi J. Karason, Valdis Oskarsdottir) must have either thought they'd died and gone to heaven or hell, depending on how much of a pain it was to cut the film. Whatever the scenario, together with newbie director Peter Travis, they keep the action taut and suspenseful. Each character's POV lends itself to more information as the plot unfolds piece by piece, culminating with a whopper of a car-chase scene that should leave you clenching your teeth. The use of electronic devices in the attack is also noteworthy, as the main terrorist basically accesses his PDA to 1) shoot the president, 2) explode bombs, and 3) send the pictures of the destruction to all his friends. OK, he actually doesn't do that last part, but he certainly could with that handy device of his. The only drawback to the whole scenario is the implausibility of it all--and the lack of back story. Suspending disbelief we can do, but in Vantage Point's case, a little explaining would have helped.

Bottom Line rated this film 3 stars.