Vantage Point

In theaters.

Nothing makes you appreciate a good car chase like a bad one, so I guess I can thank Vantage Point for renewing my admiration of old Steve McQueen flicks, the Bourne movies, and John Frankenheimer’s oeuvre. Also, much of Vantage Point takes place at the beautiful Plaza Mayor in Salamanca, Spain, so that’s nice. And … yeah, I think that might be all the praise I can muster for this dumb, dull, disjointed mess of a thriller.

It’s not like I was expecting a cinematic masterpiece, but with so many interesting, talented actors on screen (the cast includes Dennis Quaid, William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver, and Forest Whitaker), I thought it would be fun, at least. Instead, it was just painful watching them muddle through a screenplay so flat, so devoid of feeling, that each was forced to spend the vast majority of the movie wearing the same expression. Quaid: panicky. Hurt: self-righteous. Weaver: bitchy. Whitaker: mildly retarded. By the time the movie finally dragged its way to the incoherent, interminable car chase from hell, I wanted a semi to flatten every single character and put the actors and me out of our misery.

The plot involves terrorists attacking an international summit on—what else?—combating terrorism. We first see the disastrous opening ceremony from the perspective of a cable news producer and then back up to revisit the same event with an anxious Secret Service agent, a tourist, a member of el policía, et cetera, et cetera. In theory, this could be interesting, but in practice, it’s a fiasco. Just when the movie starts to build momentum, it breaks off with a lame, misleading cliffhanger (the effect reminded me of a trite TV cop show going to commercials); rewinds the action; and introduces us to yet another personality-free character whose perspective, more often than not, will add little to our understanding of what happened.

Of course, the movie doesn’t seem to understand much itself. Sure, we eventually find out who fired the shots, who set off the bombs, and who’s a mole (as if it weren’t really obvious in the first twenty minutes or so), but as for where the terrorists come from and what they want, Vantage Point doesn’t bother explaining—to the point of absurdity. The crew is as diverse as the United Nations, but aside from a few throwaway comments on American arrogance (yawn), they don’t give us any indication of why they’re working together. Maybe the filmmakers were trying to avoid controversy by keeping things vague—meet the Generic Terrorists™!—but the result is a staggeringly uncompelling. Why should I care if I have no idea what’s at stake?

Eventually the movie tires of its perspective gimmick and becomes more traditional, floating from character to character, but the lackluster editing and direction can’t handle all the jumps. We’re left with a series of pointless, unintelligible action sequences that end in a ridiculously anticlimactic climax. It was laughably stupid—marked by absurd coincidence and a complete lack of dramatic flair—but I can say one nice thing about the finale: it meant that the movie was finally over.