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The Assassination Business:
A History of State-Sponsored Murder
by Richard Belfield
(Discounted Paperback from Amazon)
When a film history lover thinks about a mystery told from different viewpoints, the iconic reference is to Akira Kurosawa's "Rashomon," of 1950. His take on the genre stunned the industry for its vivid creativity. "Vantage Point," may not produce a comparable reaction but it does a credible job with similar technique applying technology to the breaking point of plausibility. But, nowadays, it takes more state-of-art bandwidth to impress.
The high amperage takes the form of politics, terrorism and vehicle stunt footage that will make you hold onto your seat.
The object of a terrorist plot that incorporates advance planning with technological control that would be the envy of the CIA if it were anywhere near the realm of possibility, is the president of the United States, William Ashton (William Hurt). He arrives in the beautiful town square of Salamanca, Spain for a summit meeting tightly surrounded by his Special Service unit which, to the surprise of many, includes agent Thomas Barnes (Dennis Quaid), just recovered from a bullet wound that saved Ashton's life months ago.
The scene is covered in crisp detail by a TV news crew headed by producer Rex Brooks (Sigourney Weaver) calling the shots from the control book for the handheld and fixed camera coverage at key vantage points for the event, and one camera on a field reporter who starts to editorialize on the political ramifications of the meeting, to Brooks' consternation.
On especially high alert, Barnes and his fellow agent Kent Taylor (Matthew Fox) scan the crowd. Barnes' eyes wander upward to the buildings surrounding the plaza and spots a curtain moving in a closed room window that's supposed to be empty. An agent is sent to check it out. The president steps up to the podium after a warm introduction by the mayor of Salamanca and is shot twice. All hell breaks loose. An explosion is heard from outside the plaza. Barnes spots a tourist videoing everything, an avid camera nut.
Before he can do anything about it, Barnes spots another man rushing toward the podium as Ashton is being rushed onto a gurney and into an ambulance. Barnes takes the man down but the guy pops his badge and identifies himself as Enrique (Eduardo Noriega), a cop working for the mayor. Barnes tracks the video guy down, who turns out to be Howard Lewis, (overly expressive Forest Whitaker) on vacation to get away from a failing marriage. Barnes goes over the footage. At a point, he spots something that horrifies him and he instantly shouts for people to run away from the podium, a reaction that probably saves lives, including his own. Before he gets very far, however, a sharply percussive bomb goes off and the frame is filled with smoke.
End vantage point #1.
For the remainder of the film we see what happened from the perspectives of all the participants, the president's, the master plotter's, Enrique's, the video guy's, the bomber's, the assassin's and one or two others. Each segment begins with the same time stamp, within minutes and seconds. Its thoroughness stretches out the mystery with fascinating revelations that keep it rippingly taut and engaging. The restarts from the same point in time aren't exactly repetitions as twists and surprises keep it cleverly fresh and entertaining. Assumptions about some participants' real agenda are exposed. [Hint: someone on the inside is involved, and that person has been mentioned.]
Director Pete Travis keeps the segmented plotting by screenwriter Barry Levy
Hurt is so classy in the pivotal role as the presidential target you might ask why an astute and leaderly man like this isn't really in the white house. Quaid's earnest agent is as intense and dedicated as the scenario requires. Ultra good guy Whitaker's supple face is a showcase of changes as he labors for the right expression until he finally lands one. Soundtrack composition by Atli Orvarsson promotes raucous excitation and supporting roles are carried out with all due diligence.
~~ Jules Brenner