“The Sentinel” conveys a familiar tone and plot points, but can still capture an audience with an appealing cast and great direction from crime/drama veteran Clark Johnson.
This Secret Service film offers action, drama and yet another presidential portrayal (this time, David Rasche). Familiar elements include government agent logistics and ‘old guy’ jokes from (In the Line of Fire), protégés forced to apprehend their mentor (The Negotiator) and a hero desperately trying to gain evidence to prove his innocence (The Fugitive).
Michael Douglas plays Pete Garrison, a publicly famous and personally infamous Secret Service agent. A perfect casting choice, Douglas delves into familiar territory as a heroic character full of faults, but manages to win your approval while tackling some formidable physical challenges.
Accomplished actor/filmmaker Martin Donovan plays team leader William Montrose and Kiefer Sutherland (TV’s 24) plays David Breckinridge, special investigator. Sutherland has no problem making Breckinridge believable.
Breckinridge’s new protégé Jill Marin, played by Eva Longoria (TV’s Desperate Housewives) helps Breckinridge find a traitor within the Secret Service. She suffers the occasional ogle from male co-workers, but holds her own in her first field assignment.
Breckinridge displays genuine honesty while maintaining his integrity and authority as chief investigator. “She’s here two days! How long have you been here?” Breckinridge shouts at Jill and other agents after they make a crucial error. Ironically, Breckinridge later makes the same error as existing alliances solidify throughout the plot and reveals each character’s true motivations.
Kim Basinger plays the First Lady Sarah Ballentine who adds another dimension to the plot. Her personal involvement with the Secret Security team creates a unique perspective.
The plot starts with a great set up then shifts after a sequence at a beach house. The middle has the best action, including a shoot out sequence in a mall intertwined with a genuine surprise. The grainy cinematography and home movie-like camera shots add even more realism.
Filmmakers minimize the presidential threats (shown in voiceovers and graphics among scenes) and developmental character qualities, like Garrison’s famous past, so characters have enough screen time to redeem themselves by their patriotic actions.
You spend more time imagining yourself in each characters’ situation instead of scoffing at larger than life characters who don’t make mistakes. Each character eventually crosses paths before a decent climax set in Toronto, Canada.
The Sentinel, based on Gerald Petievich’s novel of the same name, comes recommended with reservations (** out of four stars) and is rated PG-13 for violence, sensuality and mature themes. Filmed in Washington, D.C. and various locations in Ontario, Canada.
Copyright © Michael Siebenaler