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Eight ways to tell a dull tale

f the life of Secret Service Agent Thomas Barnes, a wounded, aging protector of the President, were the main focus of an NBC television drama, then “Vantage Point” would have been the moment when the series decided to “jump the shark” and derail. And this time even the shark was left unamused. While this awkward multi-directional introspection of a terrorist attack against the President of the United States is being advertised as clever, it ultimately plays out just like it was meant to -- as a gimmick director Pete Travis smashed the emergency glass so he could instill some new excitement into this stilted political thriller. All it really succeeds in doing in the end is saving oodles of money and film by replaying the same explosion over and over again, often to the groans of some movie attendees. While screenwriter Barry Levy tries to cultivate a mystery out of the witness accounts of several attendees at the Presidential summit (in Spain, of all places), he ends up turning the movie into a high-def version of telephone. Armed with a poor story, Levy and Travis rely on the characters and the actors who portray the characters, leaving the lion’s share of the work to Dennis Quaid and Forest Whitaker, respectively. Quaid (“Flight of the Phoenix”) plays Barnes, who has been activated to protect President Ashton (William Hurt, “Syriana”) at the summit even though he is still recovering from a bullet he took for his Commander in Chief just six months earlier. As Barnes and his teammates, which includes Matthew Fox (“Lost”) to prove that the Gilligan wannabe can wear a suit, man their posts, he sees something just before all hell breaks loose in the town square. In the hopes of clarifying what he sees, Barnes goes to an American tourist (Whittaker, “The Great Debaters”) who videotaped it all. He looks at his camera and sees something else. He then runs to check out the feeds at the GNN news van run by a completely unused Sigourney Weaver, where he sees something else. Are we seeing a pattern here? The truth is ultimately unraveled through eight first person viewpoints that range from the president himself to a love-sick cop, when several other characters we meet (like the terrorists) could have given us much more. Travis should have weaved these stories together in a fascinating way, but that would have been too complicated. Instead, he does what all of us Tivo watchers do when we miss a clue or an important piece of dialogue – we rewind the tape. He should realize that today’s movie goers aren’t backward enough to pay $10 to watch a film rewound and re-looped. But he does know that people will flock to see someone jump the shark, even though the shark is going to be full before the night is over. Starring Dennis Quaid and Forest Whitaker. Directed by Pete Travis. Running time: 90 minutes. Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense violence and action, some disturbing images and brief strong language.

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