Vantage Point

Josh Bell

With a story that could easily (and more effectively) have been told in about half the time, Vantage Point is little more than an overheated episode of 24, only without Kiefer Sutherland’s steely intensity, and with a whole season’s worth of plot twists crammed into 90 minutes.

Quaid plays the movie’s Jack Bauer figure, a Secret Service agent just returning to duty after taking a bullet for the president (Hurt) during an assassination attempt. He ends up caught in the middle of another assassination attempt, an elaborate and often nonsensical terror plot carried out during a peace summit in Spain. After shots are fired and two bombs go off, the movie is essentially one long chase sequence, but the filmmakers drag it out by employing a useless gimmick that keeps restarting the story from a different character’s perspective.

Rather than a Rashomon-like rumination on the way that different people’s unique viewpoints color their recollections of the same events, it’s merely a cheap way to create false suspense, as each new segment is just an objective view from a slightly different, er, vantage point. Then some character looks at something the audience doesn’t see, says “Oh my God,” and the whole thing starts all over again, with no narrative benefit other than stringing people along. Screenwriter Barry Levy throws in irrelevant peripheral characters, like Sigourney Weaver’s TV producer and Forest Whitaker’s wide-eyed tourist, seemingly just to have an excuse to drag things out with another unrevealing point of view.

The constantly shifting perspective also robs the movie of any chance for meaningful character development, so that we might care whether these people get blown up, or catch the undermotivated bad guys. Only Quaid’s agent gets any sort of emotional arc, and even that is shallow at best. And it’s not like the lack of depth makes room for more plot; by the end, the antagonists are just as vaguely defined as when no one knew anything about them. Travis does manage to stage a decent if ludicrous car chase, but it’s not enough to distract from the perfunctory, half-baked movie that surrounds it.

Vantage Point

** 1/2

Dennis Quaid, William Hurt, Matthew Fox

Directed by Pete Travis

Rated PG-13

Opens Friday

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