The US President (Hurt) is about to speak at a summit in Salamanca. Shots ring out, and he falls; moments later, a bomb goes off, completing the carnage. The events, and those that follow, are told from a variety of different perspectives: a TV producer; the President's bodyguard (Quaid), who is back on the job for the first time, after stopping a previous assassination attempt; a local police officer; an America tourist (Whitaker) who was filming the event; and the President himself. Each approach reveals more about what actually happened, and goes further along the time-line: finally, all the threads are pulled together, and it's only then that you realize how far we've come, and how different the initial impression is, from the true thrust of events. I would probably describe the approach here as "Rashomon-like", if I had ever seen that film.
It is undeniably gimmicky, but it is equally undeniably effective, and fans of 24 will enjoy this, with its ticking clocks and near-real time approach [as well as the running about and yelling of "Dammit!" by government officials]. The scripts also gets bonus points for giving us enemies who are equally as smart - if not more so - than those who are out to stop them, and this makes for chess-like elements, albeit with more car-chases than the average game of chess. The bad guys certainly have spiffier toys, not least the telephone carried by their leader, which appears to have come pre-loaded with the latest version of the Terrorist All-Purpose Application Pack. It does strain credibility somewhat, as does the coincidence necessary for the film's climax, but the pace is brisk, with characters being developed through their actions, over a crisp ninety minutes that does a fine job of pulling the viewer into its web.