Fair warning: this review will contain spoilers. And by “spoilers” I mean “I’m going to divulge the ending of the movie to make you come around to my way of thinking.” Continue at your peril.
“Vantage Point” follows eight individuals caught up in the attempted assassination of one President Ashton (William Hurt), who’s shot just as he’s about to speak at a counter-terrorism summit in Spain (adding injury to injury, a bomb goes off in the midst of the assembled crowd minutes later). Witnessing/experiencing these events are an American news crew – led by producer Rex Brooks (Sigourney Weaver), Secret Service agents Barnes (Dennis Quaid – just returning to the job after taking a bullet in the line of duty ) and Taylor (Matthew Fox), an American tourist (Forest Whitaker), a Spanish cop (Eduardo Noriega), and several members of the terrorist cell behind the attack. Using flashbacks to show each of their perspectives, one would expect events to be gradually fleshed out until the mystery behind the attack is finally revealed, just in time for a bodacious climax, right?
For starters, if you’ve seen any of the trailers for “Vantage Point” – airing on an almost continuous loop for the last several weeks – you already know that the guy who gets shot on the podium isn’t actually the President. His handlers have sent a double to the summit, thanks to (conveniently enough) the threat of an assassination attempt. This courageous move plays directly into the hands of the bad guys, whose goal all along has been to kidnap the Commander in Chief, not kill him.
Minor inconsistencies aside, and there are a lot of them, “Vantage Point” might have been acceptable as a gratuitous car chase/shoot ‘em up guilty pleasure. One could almost look past Whitaker’s “Cloverfield”-ian camera skill in capturing important clues on tape…or his curious eagerness to chase suspected assassins through the streets of a strange city (maybe he just likes “COPS”). You could maybe allow for the possibility that the government could find a doppelganger who not only looks just like the President, but can perfectly imitate his voice as well. Who knows? You might also be able to overlook the implausible proposition that a relatively minor terrorist group could place several highly trained operatives in every organization connected to the summit, from the news network to the Secret Service itself.
What you won’t be able to ignore is the ridiculous way “Vantage Point’s” brings everything to an end.
Say you’re the mastermind of a terrorist group that’s been plotting the abduction of the President of the United States for several years. Suppose also that you’ve not only engineered the murder of the guy masquerading as the President, set off a bomb that killed hundreds of civilians, including women and children, and methodically slaughtered 95% of the Executive staff. You’ve got the unconscious President in the back of your ambulance (being big fans of “Die Hard” and “The Cannonball Run,” you know the value of using emergency vehicles as getaway cars), and a clear shot out of the city. Suddenly, a little girl wanders into the road, directly in your path, do you: A) heedlessly run her over, knowing full well you’ve already killed scores of innocent people and you’ll never have this kind of political leverage again, or b) swerve wildly, almost certainly overturning the ambulance, erasing months of preparation, and ruining the perfect crime?
You and I and everyone with a marginally developed brainstem would answer “A.” First-time screenwriter Barry levy opts for “B,” to the detriment of all involved. “Vantage Point” is the latest in a long line of political thriller, unfortunately it’s also one of the least plausible.