Here's what I liked about Vantage Point: It's a gradually unfolding thriller-mystery with elements of an action movie thrown in. Here's what I don't like about Vantage Point: While it benefits from being both thriller-mystery and action flick, it also falls into the same traps as many other movies in these genres. In trying to keep our attention, the film employs this tactic of repeatedly winding back the clock to show what's happening in every character's story in a certain time span. But while this is neat the first few times, it becomes laughable after a while — literally, laughable. The audience I was with started to anticipate the rewind and would roar with laughter every time it happened. As an action film, there's a lot of gunfire and bombing and people betraying other people by killing them, all of which is fine. But then there's an impossibly long and exhausting car chase that makes this hour-and-a-half movie feel twice as long.
Regardless of those minor criticisms, however, Vantage Point is still one of the finer movies like this to come out in a long time. The action centers around a speech the President is supposed to make in Salamanca, Spain, yet everything goes awry when two shots ring out across the square and the President is struck down. Soon after, two bombs explode in the city. Rewinding the clock several times allows us to follow many different points of view and piece together the full picture of what went down. That's just the basic outline of this tense, twisty tale, though, so read more.
There's a wide range of characters to follow, centering mostly on a shaky Secret Service man, Thomas Barnes (Dennis Quaid) who took a bullet for the President a year ago and is on this job to try and prove that he's back to normal. There's the American news crew (led by a sharp Sigourney Weaver) that captures important footage while covering the speech. There's a Spanish couple: a policeman and his shady girlfriend. There's the sweet, friendly American tourist (Forest Whitaker, who I adore more every time I see him in a role) using his handheld camera to film everything around him — including key moments in the day's events. Every story, rewound to the same point in time, provides more clues to who's out to get the President — and who's getting in the way. And in the middle of it all is a car chase scene that seems to last forever.
It has the same tone and similar plot points as the show 24, which is compelling for fans of 24, though also leaves no real reason to see this movie on the big screen. Still, I found myself lost in this mystery, anxious to figure out how each of these storylines intersects with the others. I rooted for some characters and wanted to boo others. The dialogue is sometimes ridiculous, and despite the gasp-inducing twists and turns, the ending is so predictable it elicited hearty laughter from the audience. The Bourne Ultimatum it isn't, but it's much more successful than many movies that try to do similar things.
Photos courtesy of Sony Pictures