Sentinel, The (2006)

Reviewed By Doug Bentin
Posted 05/08/06 17:08:04

"Tell me again why we need this movie."
3 stars (Just Average)

This is a slick and professionally made B-movie thriller, and doesn’t pretend to be anything more than that. At that level, it works okay. Not great--not even good, really, but okay.

Movies like “The Sentinel,” or last year’s “Red Eye” or “The Interpreter,” don’t get a lot of respect unless they were directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and then only several years after the director’s death. But Hitch was known for being able to transform a pig’s ear into a Louis Vuitton and make the process look easy.

“The Sentinel” is no fashion accessory, but it is a professionally made thriller with fewer absurdities than most and Michael Douglas and Kiefer Sutherland doing what they do so well. It won’t stay with you long, but watching it is better than eating your popcorn while staring at a blank wall. With some films, I’d prefer the wall.

Douglas is Pete Garrison, a secret service op who’s been with the agency so long he took a bullet from John Hinckley in 1981. He now heads security for the First Lady, Sarah (Kim Basinger), with whom he is having an affair. This is one of those absurdities I mentioned above, and it’s a doozy. Just about the time Garrison is told by a colleague that something screwy is going on in the president’s guard, someone sends night photos of Pete and Sarah smooching. The colleague is killed and Garrison is being set up to take the fall.

He is investigated by ex-buddy David Breckinridge (Sutherland)—“ex” because Breckinridge thinks Garrison ruined his marriage by having an affair with his wife. Garrison denies this, but it’s clear that peter sometimes does Pete’s thinking for him.

Sorry for having to go so much into the back story, but in pictures like this back story is the plot. From here on, standard ingredients are blended in with professional slickness. Pete breaks away from the Service so he can investigate on his own and catch the ne’er-do-wells before the president (David Rasche) is killed. Breckinridge does the Tommy Lee Jones in “The Fugitive” thing before realizing that Pete is innocent. There is training banter between Breckinridge and his rookie partner (an eye-pleasing but useless Eva Longoria). The villain is revealed—s/he is not that hard to spot, but perhaps the hiding was done better in the Gerald Petievich novel on which George Nolfi’s screenplay is based.

Director Clark Johnson (“S.W.A.T.”) keeps it all moving swiftly, assisted ably by editor Cindy Mollo.

“The Sentinel” offers nothing new and the ages of the leads may mean that there isn’t much here to attract a younger audience—the first family doesn’t even include a cute daughter to be threatened—but, shocking though it may seem, it’s okay for the middle-aged to have a movie devoted to their interests once in awhile, and this one offers a diverting and mildly suspenseful two hours’ break while shopping at the mall.

And if you’re into irony, you’ll appreciate the fact that Breckinridge hates Garrison for, he thinks, having an affair with his wife but forgives all when he learns that Pete is merely having an on-duty fling with the First Lady. Talk about situational morality. I’d laugh even harder if this weren’t a pretty accurate reading of contemporary American ethics.

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