Exactly two scenes in Vantage Point, the new movie directed by Pete Travis, whose previous filmography includes nothing of note, are worthwhile. One involves President Kennedy Ashton, played by William Hurt, who receives the disappointing news that a "security threat" has been received and that, as a result, his stunt double would take his place at the anti-terrorism summit he had presumably looked forward to for months. That the president could in fact have on staff at least one "double" to stand in his place in the face danger is an intriguing concept -- one not altogether unlikely, come to think of it, given the alarmingly blurred distinction between 21st Century politics and Hollywood special effects.
In the second, Dennis Quaid, the president's hardiest Secret Service-man, bursts into a news trailer parked outside the plaza in which the president (actually, the president's double) has just been shot. He demands the station's manager, Sigourney Weaver, play for him the footage her cameramen had taken of the scene. In an implausibly brief number of seconds, Quaid discerns a clue in the footage that will lead him to the masterminds behind the attempted assassination. In the foreground, Quaid radios in his orders to the Secret Service control desk. In the background, more interestingly, Weaver and her correspondents repeat Quaid's orders, in whispers, into their own radios, guaranteeing their station will be the first to break the news. A dog-eat-dog world, this is.
Aside from these two moments, the feature is repellant.
In fact, I am not sure the word "feature" should be applied to Vantage Point at all, as it implies a piece of work that lasts for an hour or more. Sure, my friend Carly and I sat in the movie theater for well over an hour, but the movie itself is really no more than a 15-minute narrative that is rewound and replayed, each replay centering around a different character's slightly different perspective on that fatal afternoon of the president's apparent assassination. The play-rewind-replay gimmick may be effective, I suppose, in some films (none come to mind, however), but here its only purpose is to lengthen a too-short movie. There is some attempt to round-out the characters, but the subplots (Quaid's flashbacks to another mission in which he took a bullet for the prez, Weaver's irritation with her novice anchor's "punditry", Forrest Whittaker's longing for his estranged wife and children, etc.) go largely unresolved and are, like the fractured timeline, merely flourishes to stretch the 15-minute narrative into a film long enough to allow its audiences to consume its super-sized buckets of buttered popcorn.
There is material here for a movie, I think. The world could use a film about a harried Secret Service agent who finds himself on his first day back on the job faced with the opportunity to redeem himself in his peers' eyes. This, however, is not that film.