It was quite refreshing to finally see a post 9/11 movie from Hollywood, portraying a story that could very well be a real-life terrorism-related headline and where the U.S. Government (in this case, the Secret Service) are the good guys.
A conference of world leaders is being held in Spain to show a unified front against terrorism. About 15 minutes past noon U.S. President Ashton (William Hurt) arrives and is about to address a crowd in an outdoor square when two shots ring out, killing him instantly. This is all being recorded by a U.S. news team on the scene headed by Director Rex Brooks (Sigourney Weaver). Within minutes, a bomb goes off outside the square, and then again a few minutes after that, another bomb wrecks the entire square. The result is mass commotion, hysteria and chaos.
At first we, as viewers, have witnessed this 30-minute sequence from the vantage point of the news crew. But then the story rewinds back to noon and we follow the same sequence of events again, but this time from the vantage point of Special Agent Thomas Barnes (Dennis Quaid). It was only a year ago that Barnes was shot while taking a bullet for the commander in chief, and even some of his colleagues question if he is ready for this assignment.
Several more times the story rewinds so we can follow what has happened from the eyes of a very suspicious Spanish cop (Edgar Ramirez) who was up close when the shots were fired, the president himself, an American tourist (Forrest Whitaker) with a hard-working video camera, and even the bad guys. Each time a new twist is added that answers some questions while raising new ones.
By now you are beginning to understand the entire plot, what the end game really is, and who the good guys and the bad guys actually are; don't be surprised if at this point you find yourself sitting on the edge of your seat.
The rewinding of the clock back to noon so the story could be retold was perhaps done a few too many times; I could almost hear the "oh not again" groan from at least one fellow patron.
But the fantastic car chase scenes (some of the best ever on film, in my opinion) and other action sequences in the second half of the film more than made up for the repetitiveness.
If you enjoy political thrillers, this is one you will want to see.