Vantage Point promises something different and smart but, around 60 minutes in, falls apart as it becomes utterly predictable. For the first hour or so, the Rashomon-style set-up — one story, assorted different points of view — skips along quite merrily and then it all goes wrong in spectacular fashion. To give the film some due, it doesn't go the route of mundane predictability but, frankly, it might have been better if it had. Instead, director Travis and his decent cast go with an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach that will leave you reeling and, worse, chuckling.
The main action revolves around a Presidential assassination and a couple of enormous explosions. The most powerful man in the West has been shot, hundreds are panicking and there are bodies everywhere. Tension enough to build a film around? You betcha. But not for the makers of this film, oh no. They throw in enough subplots and shady terrorists for an entire season of 24 and the sort of emotional shorthand last seen in Little House on the Prarie. By the time you get to the cliffhanger of a small girl standing frozen in the path of a speeding ambulance you can't help but wonder how they'll escalate the next flashback. Frankly, by that stage you've only got two options: an Uzi held to a kitten's head or a terrorist stuffing a grenade down a baby koala's throat.
At a landmark peace summit in Spain, President Ashton (Hurt) is set to launch the next stage in the war on terror. Instead, despite the efforts of his bodyguards, agents Barnes (Quaid) and Taylor (Fox), Ashton takes two bullets. Panic ensues, the President is whisked off to hospital and the Secret Service attempt to solve the mystery. The audience then sees the action unfold and rewind several times as the run-up to the shooting and the aftermath is seen through the eyes of Sigourney Weaver's TV producer, Forest Whitaker's emotional tourist, Quaid's wrinkly bodyguard, Noriega's stubbly Spanish cop, etc, with each clip revealing more of the truth behind the incident.It's a device that works well, building the excitement and keeping the audience guessing, so the film really doesn't need the blatant pulls on the heartstrings and it certainly doesn't need the chest-thumping, God Bless America bollocks that infects the big climax. It's a pity because British director Travis clearly shows he's one to watch, it's a first rate cast (it's always a pleasure to see Quaid) and there's two-thirds of perfectly decent film here. But the final third? Risible. And so risible, it undermines most of the positives.
EXTRAS **½ A commentary track with director Pete Travis; three making-of featurettes (An Inside Perspective, Plotting an Assassination, Co-ordinating Chaos); a deleted scene; Vantage Viewer: GPS Tracker, in which you can use a GPS map to track character movements during the film, while watching alternative vantage points via a picture-in-picture window); and trailers for the films Made of Honour, 21 and Hancock.