US President Ashton (William Hurt) is shot just before he signs an anti-terrorist treaty, and explosions add to the panic. Secret serviceman Thomas Barnes (Dennis Quaid), back on the job after a nervous breakdown, has to act fast.
The high concept of Vantage Point is 24 meets Rashomon. Instead of hour-long episodes that add up to a day of suspense and action, we get a series of takes which show the events of a busy few minutes from multiple viewpoints.
In a neat, cynical gag, we first see things through the eyes of a TV news producer (Sigourney Weaver) who has multiple picture feeds on screens in front of her, but no idea what is going on. Then, shooting, bombings, chases and labyrinthine conspiracy twists are set off, as seen by a shaky secret serviceman (Dennis Quaid), a wide-eyed tourist with a camcorder (Forest Whitaker), a Spanish cop who made a bad mistake (Eduardo Noriega), a Special Forces soldier blackmailed into working with the baddies (Edgar Ramirez) and a mastermind with an extremely versatile mobile phone.
British director Pete Travis already tackled a terrorist bombing in Omagh, and goes the Paul Greengrass route by segueing from a serious look at the Troubles to a fantastical, action-based international thriller spotlighting dangerous car stunts in crowded streets. Drawing on conspiracy-theory and assassination myths, established in the likes of In The Line Of Fire, Vantage Point still owes rather too much to the adventures of Jack Bauer, as it hops from the world of a secret serviceman who has to solve problems fast, while running and shooting, and a world where big politicos hide in hotel rooms from ski-masked super-efficient killers.
It’s even a given now that all credible political context can be shuffled aside to make room for gimmicks and thrills - there’s scarcely a hint of the cause for the conspirators support. Reliables such as Quaid, Weaver, Whitaker and Hurt make clichés work, and some interesting international names do a lot with very little. When we finally get to go beyond the 23 minutes, the pay-off turns sadly laughable - all the pieces come together just as the film falls apart.
Some okay thrills with good performances and some smarts. But the last reel plunge spoils things. Myth for the new millennium: any average, out-of-shape middle-aged Yank, including the President, can get in a punch-up with a few well-armed, super-trained terrorists, and win.