Starring: Dennis Quaid, Matthew Fox, Forest Whitaker
Directed by: Pete Travis (debut)
Written by: Barry Levy (debut)
Car salesmen. Reality TV show producers. Toothbrush designers. These are some of the only people that can get away with having a gimmick run their livelihood. Unfortunately, for their first time out of the gate, director Pete Travis and screenwriter Barry Levy throw all their energy into technique and forget about fundamentals.
Just in time for more presidential primaries, “Vantage Point” follows the attempted assassination of the U.S. President (William Hurt) during an international counter-terrorist assembly in Spain. Although it might seem like a full-length feature in theory, “Vantage Point” is actually about a 15-minute film told from the point of view of five separate people.
One of these characters is Thomas Barnes (Quaid), a Secret Service agent recently back on duty after taking a bullet for the President only six months prior. As cliché as cliché gets, Tom blames himself for the attempted murder of the Commander in Chief and questions whether or not he is ready to return to the line of duty (Quaid’s shifty eyes do most of the talking at this point).
Then there’s Howard Lewis (Whitaker), a bystander at the political gathering who is videotaping everything as the events unfold. But not even the all-powerful digital camera can catch all that is happening in this grassy-knoll-of-a-script. Secondary storylines weigh in on the conventional plot but become blurred as Levy repeats the scenario by rewinding to the beginning. It’s not clever, has been done before and in a much viewer-friendly way, and bets everything on a payoff that turns out to be a yawner.
An insane amount of time is wasted introducing us to would-be assassins when the actual assassination becomes insignificant midway through. As the web of characters gets thicker, it’s harder to feel any sense of mystery or how tense these individuals should actually be. Instead, the film is sliced and diced into an unrecognizable mess and then somehow devolves into a panicky car chase lead by an indestructible Quaid (who would have known the guy can Tokyo drift?)
Although the interweaving tricks may bring you to think of such films as “Run Lola Run” (a film that does it right) or “Timecode” (a film that does it wrong), “Vantage Point” is stale entertainment any which way you cut it. Trying to piece the thing together is like working on a puzzle where the finished product is a picture of a cloudy sky. It’ll get done sooner or later, but how dull is getting there and the outcome?