Vantage Point is a 90-minute puzzle and each person's point of view represents a piece towards its solution. But like any good mystery, you have to see it to the end to know the whole story.
An international summit on terrorism, which includes Arab nations, is being held in Salamanca, Spain. However, upon his arrival, the president of the United States is shot. (Probably a good thing they have been using doubles since Reagan… but that also means there's another Bush running around.)
The remainder of the film is told from different characters' points of view before and after the assassination attempt. Perspectives include journalist Rex Brooks (Sigourney Weaver), returning secret service agent Thomas Barnes (Dennis Quaid), tourist Howard Lewis (Forest Whitaker), President Ashton (William Hurt), the host mayor's bodyguard (Eduardo Noriega), and the terrorist conspirators.
What makes this film so engaging is each point of view reveals just a little more information and each story breaks at a cliffhanger. The audience rendered groans as each restart of the narrative interrupted a climactic moment; nonetheless, the need to know what happens next keeps you on the edge of your seat.
There is a terrorist bombing within the square in which the imaginary historic event was taking place. The first three renditions of this explosion are very intense as the first is a shock and the latter two survey the carnage in the blast’s wake; conversely, the subsequent images are glanced over and emotionally unattached. It may be because newscasts are always shown after the fact but particularly the first images of the explosion are quite affecting.
There is an interesting point being put forth in this film about the state of the world and the role of war in its existence. This is underlined when a dying terrorist boasts, “You can’t stop us. You’ll never stop us. This war will never end.” It makes one wonder: is the world, or humanity, reliant on conflict and bloodshed?
Unfortunately, the end of the film takes a turn toward sentimental cheese as Barnes rescues Ashton, places his hand on his chest and whispers “Mr. President, I’ve got you.” With Quaid resembling Kevin Costner (but with hair), you half expect Hurt to break into appreciative song Bodyguard-style.
If the ending were not so unintentionally funny and ill-fitting, this would be an easily recommendable assassination thriller with a twist; instead, it is only recommendable with an asterisk.