Brief Review: Vantage Point (2008)

Pete Travis directs an impressive cast in this mixed bag of a film. Vantage Point is a frenetic thriller that is initially intriguing, but unfortunately begins to unravel towards the end.

The US President, Henry Ashton (William Hurt), is attending an anti-terrorism summit in Spain when he is shot twice by an unseen assailant. Shortly after the assassination attempt, two explosions erupt nearby, adding to the panic and chaos.

The story follows several characters who witness the incidents from different vantage points. Mostly, but not limited to, Sigourney Weaver’s television news producer Rex Brooks, Dennis Quaid’s shaky secret service agent Thomas Barnes and Forest Whitaker’s snap-happy tourist Howard Lewis.

For the first half of the film, Vantage Point is both exciting and engaging. The high-profile assassination attempt and subsequent explosions are repeatedly rewound and viewed from the perspectives of the different characters, each time providing us with a few more clues than we had before. It’s not so much a gimmick as it is a novel way of adding depth. It introduces different characters well, and it raises interesting questions from the viewer.

While the story is centred on the plaza where the attacks take place, Vantage Point is fine. However, once the action spills out from said plaza, loose ends start to appear. The motivations behind the attacks aren’t explained, at least not to a satisfactory level, and the inevitable revelations are uninteresting and entirely questionable.

An excellently executed chase sequence in the final third attempts to substitute genuine answers with action. While undeniably thrilling, it feels more an attempt to avoid addressing the problems with the story than anything else.

At the very least, Vantage Point is a stylish and entertaining affair. The capable cast almost gloss over the story shortcomings with commendable performances, but the lack of answers and the unsatisfying conclusion keep it from being more than an average thriller.

3-stars

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