DVD Review: The Guardian
By Patrick Luce Jan 24, 2007, 13:51 GMT
The US Coast Guard version of "Top Gun" with a little "An Officer and A Gentleman" thrown in: an aging USCG rescue swimmer\'s team is killed in a horrific rescue mission. Immediately prior to this terrible event, his wife also announced that she cannot take anymore. His first love is always the rescue mission. This leaves him an obviously emotional wreck. His commender gives him a choice - quit or ...more
Although the plot is a bit familiar and has been done many times before, The Guardian still manages to keep the audience entertained thanks to big stunts, somewhat solid performances from its main two stars, and a decent story that gives you a few surprises – even if they are a bit telegraphed.
The film was directed by Andrew Davis (who is no stranger to this genre having brought films like The Fugitive and Collateral Damage to the screen) and was written by Ron L. Brinkerhoff. It stars Kevin Costner (in probably his best movie since 2003’s Open Range), Ashton Kutcher, Sela Ward, Melissa Sagemiller, and Clancy Brown.
The Guardian basically tells two stories: that of U.S. Coast Guard rescue swimmer Ben Randall (Costner) – a legend that begins to find his life in limbo following an accident at sea; and of wannabe rescue swimmer Jake Fischer (Kutcher) – the cocky swim team champ that wants to break all of Randall’s records. The two meet at USCG training facility where Randall has reluctantly agreed to teach. They instantly clash, and the borrowing from past similar themed films begins.
Randall is a hard nose instructor with no time for joking around. He believes in weeding out the weak right away. He sees Fischer’s bravado as an insult to what a rescue swimmer is meant to be, and plans to break him. Fischer’s life gets more complicated when he begins dating a local town girl, and finds his own goals beginning to be put in question. Although he doubts himself at times, Fischer eventually finds the inner strength to tough out the torment of his instructor (including a scene where Costner sprays Fischer with water while Fischer shouts why he wants to be a rescue swimmer), and eventually wins his respect. Is it me, or does this kind of sound like An Officer and a Gentleman?
Randall is dealing with some problems of his own – which follow him to the teaching academy and are making him doubt if he can ever be a rescue swimmer again. At the beginning of the film, he loses his best friend and entire crew when a rescue goes bad. The disaster wasn’t his fault, but he can’t let it go. Randall’s grief is causing him to doubt his own abilities and even makes him freeze up during a rescue. Is it me, or does this sound a little bit like Top Gun?
Like I said, the plot is extremely familiar to past films, but it also manages to be entertaining, and holds your interest from start to finish. This is mostly thanks to the time spent showing the training and hardships that the cadets go through to become rescue swimmers. This time spent in school helps you care a little bit more about these characters and will give you a new found respect for the U.S. Coast Guard.
The Guardian also holds your interest thanks to good filming that makes the rescue stunts take you to the edge of your seat. Davis knows how to direct this kind of movie, and the big action sequences that are needed to force the audience to forgive any of its flaws. He never lets the pace of the film drag, and manages to hold the audiences’ attention even during the training sequences.
In this film, Costner is finally firing on all cylinders again after a few duds (such as Rumor Has It and 3,000 Miles to Graceland). He is a long way from some of the great work he has done in past films, but seems to have found a project that interested him enough to show up and act. Don’t get me wrong, this character is cliché and could be played by any actor. However, Costner gives enough of himself in the performance to help you look past its familiarity.
Kutcher is also decent in the movie, but I wasn’t quite ready to see him in an “action” type of role. At times, Kutcher (who did manage to jump from comedy to drama in films like The Butterfly Effect) comes across as goofy in his attempts to be serious and dramatic. This does hurt The Guardian some, but the actor manages to pull the role off by the time the film is finished.
With that said, his teaming with Costner doesn’t have a lot of the chemistry that sometimes comes when you match the old pro with the new kid on the block - such as when Robert Redford teamed with Brad Pitt or Paul Newman with Tom Cruise. The two manage to compliment each other in the film, but at times the pairing makes the movie feel even more formulaic.
The DVD comes loaded with special features including an alternate ending (which was not liked by Davis, Costner or the film’s producers); deleted scenes (which add a bit more development to the characters); “Making Waves” (a standard behind the scenes look at how the film was brought to the screen); “Unsung Heroes” (which gives the audience a look at the Coast Guard and the rescues they were responsible for during Hurricane Katrina); and a standard commentary.
The Guardian is a solid film from Costner and well worth taking the time to watch. It is familiar, but manages to be entertaining. I would recommend taking a chance on it.