Vantage Point offers many perspectives but never dives below the surface
High concept meets poor follow-through in Vantage Point, which takes a unique approach to documenting an assassination attempt on a U.S. president by showing it through eight different sets of eyes. Except a couple of them merge to make it only five different points of view, or vantage points. Yep, it’s already getting confusing.
We enter the film through a TV news van parked outside the plaza in Salamanca, Spain, where the president, along with other international diplomats, is set to sign a historic anti-terrorism treaty. Sigourney Weaver plays the news director, telling five or six different cameramen what to focus on. Already we have numerous vantage points for the shooting that takes place as the president (William Hurt) is introduced.
Then the clock moves backwards to a few minutes prior to the shooting, this time showing us what happened from the viewpoint of Thomas Barnes (Dennis Quaid), on his first day back on the Secret Service detail since taking a bullet for the president mere months ago. From the stage, he notices a hard-to-miss tourist in Howard Lewis (Forest Whitaker), who is videotaping the events, and after the shooting Barnes has a Spanish man (actually a cop, played by Eduardo Noriega) arrested. We’ll soon see the afternoon through their eyes as well.
The idea of showing one world-changing event through different people’s points of view is fascinating on its surface. But then the filmmakers ran into the problem of explaining what really happened, turning the cool concept film into an everyday action flick, complete with car chases and hostages (and a lame sentimental tale involving Whitaker’s character and an ice cream cone).
Despite all the backstory, I still left the theater stumped as to the assassins’ motives. Unfortunately, the film—the first Hollywood effort for director Pete Travis—offers an all-to-easy explanation without delving deeper and getting to the heart of the matter.