Vantage Point gives us just that--a birds-eyed view of an assassination/terrorist attack on the U.S. president. In Spain at a landmark outdoor summit on the global war on terror President Ashton (William Hurt) is shot and a bomb explodes killing hundreds of people. For the rest of the film we see the same 15 minutes over and over but from different points of view: There’s a CNN-like news producer (Sigourney Weaver) who is the first to witness the events; the Secret Service agents (Dennis Quaid and Matthew Fox) assigned to protect the president; an American tourist (Forest Whitaker) videotaping the historic event; a Spanish cop (Eduardo Noriega) who suspects what’s going down by the surreptitious actions of his girlfriend (Ayelet Zurer) at the rally; and most importantly the head terrorist (Said Taghmaoui) who orchestrates it all. Through each of these individual perspectives we learn the truth behind the assassination attempt--and as far-fetched as it is it still isn’t pretty. This is an all-out action thriller folks--quiet subtle performances are not required. Quaid goes full blast as the veteran Secret Service agent who has already taken a bullet for the president once before and is still a bit skittish about it. But his loyalty to the president never wavers and it’s through his determination to find out what happened that propels the story forward. Fox also plays it to the hilt much like he does as Jack on TV’s Lost but the actor has a certain movie-star quality to him; he could easily transition from TV to film. Whitaker unfortunately has to play the big schlub with a heart--which at this point seems a tad beneath the Oscar-winner--but he still gives it his all. Hurt’s Head of State is another one of those dream presidents we wish we had. Taghmaoui (The Kite Runner) and Zurer (28 Weeks Later) are adequately cold-hearted as the terrorists while Edgar Ramirez (Domino) effectively emotes as a reluctant member of the terrorist cell forced to do their bidding while his brother is being held captive. Did we mention that the terrorists were cold-hearted? Right. Vantage Point’s trio of film editors (Stuart Baird Sigvaldi J. Karason Valdis Oskarsdottir) must have either thought they’d died and gone to heaven or hell depending on how much of a pain it was to cut the film. Whatever the scenario together with newbie director Peter Travis they keep the action taut and suspenseful. Each character’s POV lends itself to more information as the plot unfolds piece by piece culminating with a whopper of a car-chase scene that should leave you clenching your teeth. The use of electronic devices in the attack is also noteworthy as the main terrorist basically accesses his PDA to 1) shoot the president 2) explode bombs and 3) send the pictures of the destruction to all his friends. OK he actually doesn’t do that last part but he certainly could with that handy device of his. The only drawback to the whole scenario is the implausibility of it all--and the lack of back story. Suspending disbelief we can do but in Vantage Point’s case a little explaining would have helped.
Randy (Matt Dillon) is a bartender at a neighborhood dive called McCool's. One night he rescues Jewel (Liv Tyler) from her abusive boyfriend Utah (Andrew 'Dice' Silverstein) unaware that the sultry redhead and her paramour are in cahoots with a plan to rob the joint. Mayhem ensues when Jewel feasts her eyes on Randy and rubs out Utah instead. Randy falls madly in lust with her as does Detective Dehling (John Goodman) called to investigate the murder and Carl (Paul Reiser) a drunken lawyer and Randy's cousin. The story is told from the diverging perspectives of the three men as they pour their hearts out to different confidants in their lives: a hit man a priest and a psychiatrist. Each of the Romeos sees Jewel in a different light. While Carl thinks she's a tramp with powers of seduction Detective Dehling envisions her as a lost soul in need of guidance. Their stories eventually converge to a mutual ending.
The film's cast gives it bragging rights. Liv Tyler really pulls off the role of Jewel a seductive sex kitten who wants nothing more than a nice home with a gold fountain in the dining room. And while Jewel is a manipulative double-dealer without a shred of decency she still elicits compassion with her tacky rag-tag dreams. Matt Dillon is in his element as the doe-eyed bartender with an endearing affection for snow globes. Soft spoken and dimwitted he gives his character multiple dimensions. Another multi-faceted character is the pockmarked bingo-playing hit man with an empathetic streak played by Michael Douglas. Delivering an equally poignant performance as Detective Dehling is John Goodman a cop still grieving over the death of his wife. But a disappointing Reiser brings nothing to a role of Carl a horny lawyer with a leather fetish who is cheesy beyond belief.
Though shooting a multi-perspective film is not a new idea in Hollywood first-time director Herald Zwart does it with humor and originality and without pretension. The three characters' points of views vary visually from one another in terms of lighting lenses and costumes. If Jewel for example is wearing a red dress in Randy's version of events the same red dress is a few inches shorter when told from Carl's perspective who sees her as a sort of vixen to pink and almost matronly when told through Dehling. The camera focus also softens when Jewel is seen through Dehling's eyes though the effect might have been more effective had it been done more subtly. The film starts off strong but lags a bit halfway through only to regain its momentum toward the end. But it is well done over all and does not pretend to be something that it is not.