Movie Review: The Guardian
By Anne Brodie Sep 28, 2006, 13:43 GMT
After losing his crew in a fatal crash, legendary Rescue Swimmer, Ben Randall (Kevin Costner), is sent to teach at “A” School, an elite training program for Coast Guard Rescue Swimmers. Wrestling with the loss of his crew members, he throws himself into teaching, turning the program upside down with his unorthodox training methods. While there, he encounters a young, cocky swim champ, Jake Fischer (Ashton Kutcher), who is driven to ...more
Not bad! In fact, rather good!
Have we come to mistrust Kevin Costner so since the debacles ‘The Postman’ and ‘Waterworld’ that a good performance by him seems impossible?
Well, despite the presence of an extraordinarily watery world in ‘The Guardian,’ it is no ‘Waterworld.’
Audiences will be pleasantly surprised by Costner’s tough, tender and substantive performance. He pushes all the right buttons, his onetime cockiness has disappeared, replaced by maturity and experience.
He is downright heart breaking as Senior Chief Randall, a decorated Coast Guard ‘puddle pirate’ with an ‘epic resume’ of lives saved and risks taken.
Not only has he navigated rough waters and waves as tall as skyscrapers, he’s done it in chilly Kodiak, Alaska.
Costner always played heroes like that as a younger actor, now he has naturally gone to where they are in middle age. He has a kind of acceptance of his own mortality (and place in the Hollywood star-o-meter) and the inevitable downturn after life as a hero.
What did the Senior Chief in was the deaths of his team on a treacherous water mission and that fact that he survived – why him? He is haunted by it, and suffers from nightmares and phobias related to that night, flare guns, loud noises and claustrophobia, leading to massive self-doubt.
His superior officers see that he is coming unglued and send him back to school to teach what he knows. He seems to find a niche, he is a superior teacher, inspiring his men to never give up and save all the lives they can.
One student Jake Fischer (Fisher of men? See?) whom he calls Goldfish, is particularly strong, physically and mentally and has a bright future ahead of him. Maybe he’ll be a hero.
Randall spots his gift immediately and works him over, pushing him to the limits of his ability and into new territory. He sees himself in this bright young man.
Ashton Kutcher puts in a powerful (yes!) performance as Goldfish, showing he has the potential to do great work, reflecting his character’s journey.
The Guardian is filled with spectacular special effects –surging storm waves are terrifyingly present and big. Some sea rescues are shot on location (with stunt doubles) showing us some of the awful danger these men inhabit and their grace under fire, figuratively and literally.
As Costner tells Goldfish, as they prepare to leap into a churning sea on a rescue mission, ‘the only difference between the victims and us is attitude’.
The film opens and closes with pictorial tributes to the actual Coast Guard, dating back a hundred years. Along the way, we learn the sacrifices they made and continue to make. Few will ever do this job.
The film could be cut by twenty or thirty minutes. A lengthy final sequence asks a lot of us, but then reveals information we need to know.
It also makes a mistake so common in contemporary films - shooting action sequences in tight close-up.
We know what bugged out eyes look like. What we need is context, which a camera, as onlooker, can provide. Please, people, no more endless close-ups of the interior or people’s noses and pores.
The Guardian is a terrific actioner and it is inspiring.
Opens wide September 29. MPAA Rating: PG-13