Vantage Point

Can you really trust your eyes? Not in Vantage Point, the Dennis Quaid movie directed by Pete Travis. Quaid plays secret service agent Barnes, a man who has taken a bullet for the President in the past and is willing to do so again. Only this time, he doesn’t get the chance.

While giving a speech at an anti-terrorism conference in Spain, an attempt is made on the President’s life. Barnes isn’t quick enough to stop it, but he races to find out who was involved and how they carried out the attack before they’re able to complete the job.

The plot is not particularly complex or compelling, but Vantage Point makes more of it than usual. We see the events immediately preceding and following the attempt on the President’s life as well as the attack itself, over and over again, each time from a different vantage point. And each time we gain a clearer picture of what really happened, but each additional detail raises more questions. It’s not until the climax that we find out what really happened and who was responsible.

Quaid plays the wounded secret service agent well, expressing the fear and uncertainty you’d expect from someone who’s come close to death and isn’t sure he’s ready to do so again.

Forest Whitaker plays an American tourist, awed by his surroundings but alone, isolated from the family he left behind.

The action is consistent and well choreographed, with an impressive requisite car chase. Although we see events over and over again, 8 times in fact, it’s not at all tedious thanks to Travis’ skillful direction.

Perhaps it’s the fact that the story replays so many times that there’s little chance for any in-depth character development. We get a sense of Quaid’s and Whitaker’s personas partly because the actors are both so capable, and partly because each is given sufficient screen time through multiple retellings of the story.

Other characters aren’t given that chance. Sigourney Weaver plays a news producer covering the anti-terrorism conference and, as you’d expect, she gives the role real punch. But she only has a few on-screen minutes to do so.

William Hurt plays the President of the United States with all the depth we’ve come to expect in his performances. But, again, the he doesn’t get enough on-screen time to give any but the most red-blooded patriot reason to care whether the President lives or dies.

Matthew Fox (of Lost) plays secret service agent Kent Taylor and although we should care very much about his character, especially when we consider the crucial role he plays, we reach the end of the movie with no appreciable insight into why he does what he does.

The bad guys are, for the most part, two-dimensional and forgettable.

These failings aside, Vantage Point is an okay action flick that keeps you guessing, if not caring.

Random Notions rating: 3 out of 5

Get “Vantage Point” starring Dennis Quaid and Matthew Fox on Blu-ray.