Film Review: Gimmicky thriller Vantage Point a nearsighted bust

Vantage Point, the latest film from director Pete Travis, is an international thriller that relies on a sole gimmick that tires out quickly. Given that both Travis and screenwriter Barry Levy are newcomers to major feature-film work, it should come as no surprise that Point isn't a new horizon in topical espionage thrillers like Tony Gilroy's work (The Bourne trilogy, Michael Clayton). However, even with a sizeable and talented cast, as well as what should have been an inherently entertaining premise and form, Point fails on numerous levels, including true ingenuity, and wastes the talents of its actors.

Set in a few blocks of Salamanca, Spain, Vantage Point revolves around the assassination of a popular and aggressively international president. The film repeats the events of the assassination and the ensuing bombing of the square where the initial killing takes place through the viewpoints of six different characters. Through these characters, details are slowly released as to the why and how of the horrendous acts repeatedly shown on the screen. Once the six repetitions run their course, Point becomes a rote thriller involving a relatively fine car chase through crowded streets and a moment of omniscient understanding from a cornucopia of viewpoints.

The main problem with the film is the initial trick that Travis employs: after roughly 10 minutes of plot the entire sequence is quickly played in reverse, followed by another 10 minutes of plot and so on, six times over. This becomes tiresome and cumbersome very quickly. What's worse, Travis does not dwell on his characters as he should. Some minor effort is made to stay exclusively from the viewpoint of the characters being followed, but there are numerous occasions when the audience is allowed to see things (explosions from bird's-eye view, crucial plot details timed improbably and improperly with other events in the visual jigsaw) which the character simply can't, or shouldn't, be privy to. The initial hour of Vantage Point could have brought realism and a heightened sense of individual experience to the movie (without the nausea of Cloverfield) but instead falters under its inability to stay true to its goal (selling point, as it were).

Beyond its foundational shortcomings, Point also misuses the talents of veteran actors. Forest Whitaker plays an American tourist who primarily runs jerkily through alleys while capturing his adventure on a camcorder. Sigourney Weaver, as a cable-news producer, has memorable moments in the initial 10 minutes of the film, but is then subsequently lost in the shuffle of the movie. Point does boast a few nice camera tricks and visuals, but on the whole, the film buckles under its own lackluster ability and formal tediousness.