The cliffhanger style of 24 has been squeezed into Vantage Point, a 90-minute feature that rides roughshod over most kinds of credibility – narrative, political, physical – yet still manages to drag you along with it. It plays a variation on the old Rashomon trick of telling one story from different viewpoints, though its purpose is not to investigate "truth", as that film did, so much as to stretch out the suspense. We are in Salamanca, Spain, where a massive crowd has gathered to see the mayor introduce the US President, here played by William Hurt – that's how desperate things have got over there. He's in town for a big peace summit, but the Forces of Darkness are planning their own spectacular: first, to assassinate the Prez, then to detonate a huge bomb in the main square.
Events are seen first on banks of monitors by a TV news producer (Sigourney Weaver) and her team. We have the build-up, the gunshots, the bomb – then the action stops, rewinds and replays those 23 minutes of chaos from five other viewpoints. There's the troubled Secret Service agent (Dennis Quaid) who once took a bullet for the President; an American tourist (Forest Whitaker) who happens to capture the salient moments on his videocam; the Spanish cop (Eduardo Noriega) who's been duped by his girlfriend; the terrorist who's orchestrating the atrocity, and the President himself. If 24 is the film's plot-prompt, then the Bourne movies are its technical inspiration; the whipcrack editing and scenes of crowd turmoil are only a few gasps behind Paul Greengrass's kinetic spectacles.
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When director Pete Travis abandons the single-viewpoint schtick in the last 20 minutes and makes a bolt for the finishing line, the film becomes like any other confection of murder and mayhem. A quite exciting car chase ends, predictably, in a demolition derby, though the director could have tweaked a single other expression from Quaid, whose face never deviates from a deep, unconvincing scowl. As for the political content, the early off-piste opinions of a TV news reporter ("not everybody loves America") are later eclipsed by the heroic exploits of a veteran agent and an up-against-it President. The streets are littered with corpses and burning cars, the peace summit is dead in the water, but hey – Mr President has seen off the bad guys. Hooray!