How many TV shows have you seen about the conspiracy theory behind the assassination of President John F. Kennedy? Imagine if they had the technology now available to examine and re-examine the event from a multitude of vantage points.
That is the premise of this hard-hitting action film which is about a terrorist assassination plot of the President of the USA as he takes the podium to address a rally in Salamanca, Spain. At the center of the investigation is a Secret Service agent Thomas Barnes, (Dennis Quaid), who has taken a bullet for President Ashton (William Hurt) and is just re-entering active duty. Barnes' paranoia over concerns for the President's safety prove an obstacle in finding the perpetrators of the bombing, and it takes the tape on the camcorder of American tourist Howard Lewis (Forest Whittaker) to get Barnes on the right track. Lewis is an ordinary citizen who refuses to stand by and ‘let the authorities take care of the situation'. He knows he has seen something amiss, and films the action, putting himself at great risk.
The unique format of the film which constantly sets the clock back at noon on the same day, gives the moviegoer a different vantage point each time, and serves the purpose of uncovering who the perpetrators are. I found it somewhat annoying as the 90-minute film seemed stuck in a 15 minute time slot, until towards the end when the pieces came together and the complex assassination plot was finally revealed.
I enjoy a film which makes me ask questions during and afterwards. Vantage Point had me constantly asking my daughter, "Who is that guy? Is he bad or good?" during the film, and afterward, "What did they think they were doing, giving more ideas to al Qaeda?" The plot was designed to keep the audience guessing whose side everyone was on until the very last minute, overturning assumptions of who the good guys were at every turn. Certainly the intricate plot is something akin to the long term planning which led up to the 911 attack. When I awoke the next morning to see a bomb had been tossed at an Armed Forces Recruiting Center in Times Square in Manhattan, the sickening reality of our vulnerability to just such an attack hit home.
One of the best features of Vantage Point was the contrast between the innocence of a young attendee of the gathering in Salamanca. Anna, a sweet little Spanish girl reappears throughout the film at crucial moments in sharp contrast to the ruthlessness of the terrorists. In the midst of a terrorist bloodbath, Anna served as a symbol of the value of innocent human life. She is protected by Howard Lewis, who met her in the film's beginning, and is part of his reason to reach out and get involved in the crisis.
Warp speed car chases, a tense, ever-morphing plot, moderate violence, disturbing images, and strong language earned the PG-13 rating and make this film acceptable for older adolescents and up. There is no sexual content and the presence of two men of valor make this morally sound entertainment. The men will love this one!