Sunday, September 10, 2006

Movie Review: "The Sentinel"

Starring Michael Douglas, Kiefer Sutherland, Eva Longoria, Kim Basinger, Martin Donovan, David Rasche
Directed by Clark Johnson

Official Web site

In his role as Secret Service agent Pete Garrison, Michael Douglas is in a familiar role, playing a tough talking authority figure who makes a mistake that gets him in trouble. Maybe it’s a role that’s too familiar. Still, it’s tough to deny that Douglas isn’t good as this kind of character, the flawed hero.

“The Sentinel,” directed by Clark Johnson, is a bit of an old-fashioned action flick that doesn’t rely on wildly over-the-top stunts, car chases and explosions to propel the story. Instead, it largely depends on its solid collection of actors to wade through some of the plot’s more implausible situations.

One of those situations involves the rather difficult to swallow premise of Garrison having a secret affair with none other than the First Lady, Sarah Ballentine (Kim Basinger). Having served in the Secret Service for more than a quarter of a century, including taking a bullet for President Reagan in 1981, Garrison has earned a lot of trust among his co-workers and his boss, President Ballentine (David Rasche). But the affair is evidently not a secret to everyone, as Garrison receives mysterious photographs of him with Sarah in her bedroom.

That soon becomes a smaller concern for him once he receives information from an informant about a planned assassination attempt that will be instigated by a mole in the Secret Service. Now how this informant receives this information isn’t really explained, but for the sake of advancing the story, you just have to accept it.

Around the same time, another Secret Service agent is murdered, leading to an investigation by David Breckinridge (Kiefer Sutherland, doing a good impersonation of Jack Bauer from “24”). Naturally, his initial investigation overlaps with the assassination plan, leading to a series of events signaling that Garrison is the number one suspect. Garrison goes on the run with the intent of clearing his name, while Breckinridge is left trying to track down a man who knows very well how the pursuing agency operates.

The building investigation and subsequent pursuit between the mentor and his protégé is quite a bit more interesting than the rather uninspired and predictable final act. The script from George Nolfi (based on a novel by Gerald Petievich) has a number of good moments, particularly when Douglas is on the run, but also contains some plot holes big enough to drive a presidential motorcade through. Viewers enjoyment of the film will likely vary on the ability to overlook such details.

Ultimately, “The Sentinel” is an example of a couple of good actors playing roles they know how to do all too well. And while that can’t necessarily be considered a bad thing, it certainly doesn’t show a lot of creativity.

Grade: C+
(Rated PG-13 for violence, profanity and sexual situations.)

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