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Film Review *..: Do Not Watch ...The Sentinel... Not Even Kiefer Sutherland Can Save This Action Thriller

By Yong-yi Zhu

The Sentinel

Directed by Clark Johnson

Written by George Nolfi

Based on the book by Gerald Petievich

Starring Michael Douglas, Keifer Sutherland, Eva Longoria

Rated PG-13

In a nutshell, “The Sentinel” is a movie about a presidential assassination where the audience never worries about the well-being of the president. However, its attempt to develop a “24”-like story inside of two hours falls short, making for just an ordinary action thriller.

The film centers around Secret Service agent, Pete Garrison (Michael Douglas), who falls from being the hero that saved former President Reagan’s life to the man being investigated by government intelligence.

It all starts with the assassination of Garrison’s friend and coworker. Garrison’s informant then tells him that someone inside the Secret Service is planning to kill the president, causing an investigation by the agency, led by agent David Breckinridge (Keifer Sutherland), a man who has a history with Garrison. With his assistant, newbie Jill Marin (Eva Longoria), Breckinridge finds out Pete lied, according to a polygraph test, and looks very suspicious. When they confront him about the problem, Garrison flees the scene.

Garrison has always been loyal to his country, but many of his sacrifices have gone unnoticed — he hasn’t gotten choicy assignments, and his life seems empty outside of his job. On top of that, he is having an affair with the first lady. That prompted him to flee the scene, but it does not preclude him from having a motive to kill the president.

The film lacks coherence — it focuses too heavily on irrelevant plot, such as the characters’ pasts or other minutiae. The story has too many holes and is not at all believable, and because of time constraints, scenes are not fully developed or elaborated upon. For example, a series of death threats flash across the screen throughout the film, and eventually stop appearing as the action intensifies. It almost seems as though the director quit on the idea of having them after realizing, halfway through, that they were not effective.

This film needed all the help it could get, but its all-star cast failed. As Breckenridge, Sutherland is very much the same actor we’ve come to know and love through “24”’s Jack Bauer. He gives a great performance, but shows nothing new. I think we’ve all labeled Sutherland as the man who will do whatever it takes to protect the United States of America from all evil, and it’s a great asset in this film, but in the future, that may not bode so well for Sutherland.

The exact same problem exists for Longoria. America has labeled her as a desperate housewife, and now she is attempting to be a Secret Service agent; in fact, she becomes nothing but a pretty face in the movie. There is a scene where Longoria and Sutherland chase a suspect through a shopping mall, and I could have sworn that she was going to stop at Prada and peruse the clothing selection. Longoria is simply not meant for a movie of this kind.

Douglas, is another poor choice — half the time, he acts as though he is the president, showing perhaps remnants from his “The American President” days. The rest of the time, he is a horny teenager, constantly needing assurance that his first lady (Kim Basinger) is safe.

Put all this together, and you’re left with a film that leaves a bitter taste in your mouth.