(director: Pete Travis; screenwriter: Barry L. Levy; cinematographer: Amir Mokri; editor: Stuart Baird; music: Atli Orvarsson; cast: Dennis Quaid (Thomas Barnes), Matthew Fox (Kent Taylor), Forest Whitaker (Howard Lewis), Edgar Ramirez (Javier), Ayelet Zurer (Veronica), Sigourney Weaver (Rex Brooks), William Hurt (President Ashton), Eduardo Noriega (Enrique, local cop), Saïd Taghmaoui (Suarez), Alicia Jaziz Zapien (Anna), Zoe Saldana (Angie Jones); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: Neal H. Moritz; Columbia Pictures; 2008)

“Moderately entertaining for the first hour and then for the last half hour goes up in flames.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

British TV director Pete Travis helms this gimmicky modern-day Rashomon-style thriller (Kurosawa was interested in the credibility of the witnesses, while this pic uses the eye-witnesses to hide info in order to slyly keep their story tense for as long as they can get away with showing you distorted accounts) that is moderately entertaining for the first hour and then for the last half hour goes up in flames, as it no longer is credible as it heads into mindless action-picture cliché territory. It’s written by Barry L. Levy, who tries to give it the same exciting pace as the Bourne films but he runs out of material long before he can close the deal.

In Salamanca, Spain, there’s a gathering of some 150 world leaders for an international anti-terrorism summit. While a mob gathers inside the plaza, the news team of Global Network News (GNN) shows the proceedings under the no-nonsense direction of its producer Rex Brooks (Sigourney Weaver). The security is air-tight, with local police and Secret Service men everywhere. When the U.S. president (William Hurt) takes the podium, he’s shot and soon bombs explode scattering the crowd in a panic. Two Secret Service agents, the veteran agent, who is back on the job for the first time after taking a bullet for the Prez in a recent assassination attempt, Thomas Barnes (Dennis Quaid), and his partner Kent Taylor (Matthew Fox), nab a suspect (Eduardo Noriega) running to the podium after the shooting, who escapes and is pursued in all the chaos.

The eye-witness accounts are recorded from just before noon, some 23 minutes before the assassination, as the following multiple sources besides Barnes and the GNN coverage are reviewed: Howard Lewis (Forest Whitaker) is a saintly American tourist with a camcorder, who recorded the shooting; the president himself; and various other terrorists-including the leader who uses a cellphone to coordinate the multiple attacks. These eye-witness accounts keep leading to new and ever increasing startling revelations, until the plot becomes just plain absurd in its new intricacies and the usual superhero story takes over and the excesses in bad filmmaking decisions make it hard to care for the film that started out so promising.

At one point, Hurt says while giving off what’s meant to be earnest presidential vibes: “We have to be better than this.” And though he was talking about American duplicity, he could just as well have been commenting on the shortcomings of this pointless pic.

Vantage Point