Vantage Point (2008)

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One Assassination Attempt, a Multitude of Perspectives“Vantage Point,” a gimmick in search of a point, is nothing if not, er, timely. Set in the picturesque Spanish city of Salamanca (otherwise known as Mexico City), this jigsaw puzzle exploits a repellent conceit — the shooting of an American president (William Hurt, effectively insincere) — in a vague attempt to explore questions of narrative and subjectivity (like “Rashomon”) through the box-office-friendly form of a thriller (like the “Bourne” flicks). Instead of pushing the story forward, the filmmakers instead repeatedly return to the crime, or rather to a handful of witnesses, all of whom saw the same exact event from critically different angles.

“Vantage Point,” a gimmick in search of its own point, is nothing if not, er, timely. Set mostly in a Spanish city, it has been given a hard sheen by the director Pete Travis, working from a screenplay by Barry L. Levy. This is competent if completely impersonal filmmaking of a familiar type that finds the usual allotment of famous, or at least famous enough, actors — Dennis Quaid, Forest Whitaker, Matthew Fox and Sigourney Weaver — arranged in various configurations in assorted spaces and delivering instantly forgettable dialogue. What does register: a slimmed-down Mr. Whitaker looks as sleek as an otter, Mr. Fox is probably best cast to nice type, and Ms. Weaver seems too big for her small bit as a television producer.

“Vantage Point,” a gimmick in search of its own point, is nothing if not untimely. This is less a matter of topicality (this is, of course, a presidential election year) than a problem of timing, in other words pacing, narrative flow, direction. In “Rashomon,” Kurosawa gives you four versions of the same incident and does so brilliantly. Here we get so many versions and viewpoints that a preview audience started to complain audibly each time the clock was reset, though this probably had less to do with the fractured storytelling than its lack of brilliance. In truth, with “Rashomon,” you really get five versions of the same anecdote because the most important belongs to the filmmaker, a vantage point that’s missing from this newer work.

“Vantage Point” — well, you get the point.

“Vantage Point” is rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned) for graphic gun and bomb violence.

VANTAGE POINT

Opens on Friday nationwide.

Directed by Pete Travis; written by Barry L. Levy; director of photography, Amir Mokri; edited by Stuart Baird; music by Atli Orvarsson; production designer, Brigitte Broch; produced by Neal H. Moritz; released by Columbia Pictures. Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes.

WITH: Dennis Quaid (Barnes), Matthew Fox (Taylor), Forest Whitaker (Howard Lewis), Edgar Ramirez (Javier), Ayelet Zurer (Veronica), Sigourney Weaver (Rex Brooks) and William Hurt (President Ashton).

SOURCE:movies.nytimes.com

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