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Originally published Friday, February 22, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Movie review

"Vantage Point" moves far too fast for such a twisted path

If the makers of "Vantage Point" merely set out to create a tense moviegoing experience, they certainly succeeded. The tale of the shooting...

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 2 stars

"Vantage Point," with Dennis Quaid, Matthew Fox, Forest Whitaker, Sigourney Weaver, William Hurt. Directed by Pete Travis, from a screenplay by Barry L. Levy. 90 minutes. Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense violence and action, some disturbing images and brief strong language. Several theaters.

If the makers of "Vantage Point" merely set out to create a tense moviegoing experience, they certainly succeeded. The tale of the shooting of an American president (William Hurt) during a war-on-terror speech in Spain, it's told "Rashomon"-style, through the different perceptions of several people who witnessed the event. Barry L. Levy's screenplay is constantly rewinding and intertwining; Pete Travis' directing is jolting and jittery, full of quick shots and fuzzy video and even a score (by Atli Örvarsson) that seems to be vibrating.

But all this visual caffeine is in service to a story that isn't worth telling, and that too frequently resorts to the cheap technique of putting an adorable little girl in peril, then cutting away. If you've seen the ubiquitous "Vantage Point" trailer, you know at least one plot twist already; trust me, there are more, and after a while all those twists form a hopeless tangle. In its second half, the movie seems a senseless jumble of car chases, near-misses and people talking into various expensive cellphones. It's only 90 minutes, but it's wearying long before it's over.

Because of the film's structure, no one member of the cast gets much screen time, and some get very little. In particular Sigourney Weaver, playing a TV news producer covering the event, seems to have been lost on the cutting-room floor. Dennis Quaid, as a Secret Service agent traumatized by a past assassination attempt, does his best with the role but mostly just grimaces and barks into his shirt cuff. Hurt, in a few scenes, does little beyond his usual dry deadpan.

But Forest Whitaker, as an American tourist whose video camera just happens to be in the right place at the right time, almost saves the entire movie. With just a bit of back story (his character is having marital problems), he creates a gentle yet complex character, a man whose longing for his own children drives him to save a child he doesn't know. Pity Travis squanders much of Whitaker's time by filming the actor running endlessly. You want to tell the director — and the movie — to slow down, and let the man act.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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