Hollywood Product: Vantage Point

Espionage thriller suffers from hackneyed story line

Genre: Espionage thriller with Rashomon dressing

The pitch: At an anti-terrorism summit in Spain, an assassination attempt on the U.S. president (William Hurt) unfolds from multiple points of view, including a veteran Secret Service agent (Dennis Quaid), an American tourist with a camcorder (Forest Whitaker) and a cable-news producer (Sigourney Weaver).

Money shots: We first see the events from screens inside Weaver's news van up until a massive explosion takes us "outside." After an overwrought first half, the bad guy's secret plot unfolds in compelling fashion. At the end, a high-adrenaline, shaky-cam car chase rattles down staircases and ricochets off concrete embankments.

Body count: About a dozen U.S. Secret Service agents suffer gunshots and other grave injuries. Maimed people litter the site of the explosion. The film also puts a cute little girl in harm's way to manipulate the audience.

Worst line (English): "I'm cool with censorship. I know the American people love that," says Zoe Saldana's naïve TV reporter. Ooooh, way to score a twofer off corporate news and the complacency of the American public!

Worst lines (Spanish): In subtitles, Spanish lovers have an exchange worthy of a telenova: "You have a glow about you." "It's the heat." "The heat?" And so on.

Retire this gimmick: The film repeatedly returns to noon to show the events from another role's perspective and always "rewinds" a quick montage of what we just saw (including explosion billowing backward). So do the filmmakers think we can't figure out what's going on just by watching the clock?

Political subtext: Vantage Point explicitly mentions 9/11 and the War on Terror, and like the show "24," features a time-sensitive gimmick and conspiracies within conspiracies. Hurt's president character, however, advocates for military restraint rather than hawkish shows of force.

Burning questions: Why is Sigourney Weaver's character named "Rex Brooks"? Is "Rex" a hot new name for women? For that matter, why did Weaver take such a minor part? I'm not sure we even see her standing up.

The bottom line: Directed by Pete Travis, Vantage Point's multiple-eyewitness shtick takes too long to pay off, and its minidramas play as painfully hackneyed, including Whitaker protecting a young bystander and the use of improbably identical "doubles." So why did so many Oscar winners and nominees sign on for such a clunky thriller? Maybe it's some kind of conspiracy. 2 stars