Solid "Sentinel" an Enjoyable, Heart-Pounding Ride
- Annabelle Robertson Entertainment Critic
- 2006 31 Aug
DVD Release Date: August 29, 2006
Theatrical Release Date: April 21, 2006
Rating: PG-13 (for some intense action violence and a scene of sensuality)
Run Time: 108 min.
Director: Clark Johnson
Actors: Michael Douglas, Kiefer Sutherland, Eva Longoria, Martin Donovan and Kim Basinger
Pete Garrison (Michael Douglas) has been with the Secret Service so long he actually remembers – probably because he was there – the assassination attempt on President Reagan. He’s a hardworking agent with a solid record and exercises every morning at 4 a.m. He’s also a favorite among peers and superiors. All but one, that is – David Breckenridge (Kiefer Sutherland). Garrison and Breckenridge used to be best friends, but that ended when Breckenridge accused Garrison of sleeping with his wife – something Garrison still denies.
Unfortunately, Garrison is sleeping with someone else’s wife, and their relationship is in serious violation of Secret Service protocol. Amazingly, there’s never been a traitor in the Secret Service’s 141-year history. And, although the film never states it, Garrison’s relationship is definitely a betrayal of the president. After an assassination of one agent and another attempt on the president’s life, however, it’s obvious that a mole is among them. When Garrison receives a blackmail threat and fails a lie detector test, he becomes the primary suspect. Soon, he’s on the lam, trying to prove his innocence.
Director Clark Johnson (a Ray Nagin look-alike) has 25 years of acting experience, having appeared in numerous cop shows like “Homicide: Life on the Streets” and “Night Heat,” from the mid '80s. He’s also directed dozens of police dramas, including “Homicide,” “Law and Order: SVU” and “The Shield.” He made his feature directorial debut with “S.W.A.T.” (starring Samuel Jackson) in 2003 and has been consistently busy acting and directing. He even makes a cameo in this film, as the assassinated agent.
Fortunately, Johnson’s experience shows in "The Sentinel," which moves at a brisk pace and achieves definite thriller status. The script, by screenwriter George Nolfi ( “Ocean's Twelve” ), tends toward cliché at times, not only in its plotting and dialogue but also with stock characters. For example, Eva Longoria (TV’s “Desperate Housewives”) plays a brainy rookie agent, and we’re supposed to believe that she’s smart enough to have made the cut in this elite group. “Aren’t you the recruiting poster?” quips Sutherland’s character. It’s a stretch, to say the least, but men will no doubt enjoy her presence (which, of course, is the whole point).
The rest of the acting, on the other hand, is great, with Douglas sounding (and looking) more and more like his father and Sutherland giving us his very best Jack Bauer. Martin Donovan (“Saved!”) is great, as always, and Kim Basinger (“Cellular”) is both elegant and credible as the first lady whose word is mum.
The insider’s point of view of the Secret Service is definitely interesting. We’re escorted into that mysterious world and given unfettered access, Hollywood style. According to the extra featurette included in the DVD, all the props and lingo are painstakingly accurate, down to the stationery and badges. I can’t help but wonder whether Abdullah Al-Qaida might be watching, however, so maybe this isn’t such a good thing.
The dialogue is fair, but we’re asked to swallow a few overused phrases, like “He’s your worst nightmare” and “Let’s go!” And, of course, the plot points are not particularly plausible. This is make-believe, though, and in this film, at least, it’s easy to roll with the punches. Fortunately, a strong message about the dangers of adultery stands out. Although framed in the context of the White House, with its inherent restrictions, we see how alienating and lonely adultery truly is. It’s a good thing Johnson ditched his alternative “happily ever after” ending, which looked terrible onscreen and would have bolstered the Hollywood lie that adulterous couples can and usually do live “happily ever after.”
As a result, “The Sentinel” feels like a solid police movie, albeit one from a decade or two ago. It’s not “24,” to be sure, but it’s an enjoyable ride that will keep your heart pounding.
- Deleted Scenes (including alternate ending) with optional commentary by screenwriter. Just a handful, unfortunately.
- Full-Length Audio Commentary by director Clark Johnson and screenwriter George Nolfi
- “The Secret Service: Building on a Tradition of Excellence” featurette. Interesting insights into this elite, highly-trained group of civilian soldiers. It’s buried in the extras (keep clicking “more” to get to it) but well worth the effort.
- “In the President’s Shadow: Protecting the President.” A continuation of the above featurette, equally interesting.
- Drugs/Alcohol: Mild social drinking.
- Language/Profanity: A few mild obscenities and profanities.
- Sexual Content/Nudity: One sensual scene in which adulterous couple embraces and begins to undress.
- Violence: A helicopter explodes; a man is murdered on his front steps; various Secret Service agents are killed and lives are continually in danger. Throughout film, people are injured and/or killed by agents and assassins using semi-automatic and automatic weapons. We see very little blood, however.