The Sentinel - Review
Review by Jack Foley
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio Commentary By Director Clark Johnson And Screenplay Writer George Nolfi; Deleted Scenes; The Secret Service: Building On A Tradition Of Excellence – Featurette; In The President’s Shadow: Protecting The President – Featurette.
THE presence of Kiefer Sutherland in this suspense thriller about an assassination attempt on the US president automatically puts The Sentinel on the back foot, especially since it can’t hold a candle to real-time TV drama, 24.
Yet to handicap it still further, the film fails to capitalise on the current climate of uncertainty surrounding American (and global) politics, thereby reducing it to a fairly run-of-the-mill experience.
Michael Douglas stars as veteran Secret Service agent Pete Garrison, a long-time hero who was part-responsible for saving the life of former President Reagan back in the ’80s.
Now, however, he has started an ill-advised affair with the First Lady (Kim Basinger) that’s about to land him in very hot water.
A mole is operating within the Secret Service who may be plotting an assassination attempt and Garrison quickly becomes the prime suspect after failing a lie detector test and finding the evidence stacked against him.
Forced to go on the run to prove his innocence, Garrison is subsequently pursued by one-time best friend David Breckenridge (Sutherland), the man he helped to train, as well as his new partner, Jill Marin (Eva Longoria), another of his proteges.
But given that Breckenridge and Garrison have long since fallen out, Garrison can no longer count on there being any allies within the department and is forced to employ the tactics he taught many of his colleagues in order to keep himself one step ahead.
Clark Johnson’s thriller often feels like a clumsy mix of 24 and In The Line Of Fire that lacks the tension and finesse of either. As previously mentioned, Sutherland’s prominent role does little to help matters given that the spirit of his small-screen hero, Jack Bauer, hangs menacingly over all concerned.
It’s difficult to know what appealed to Sutherland about the role but The Sentinel provides him with a relatively thankless part in a deeply average thriller.
The twists lack any of the shock factor of his real-time series and are telegraphed long in advance, while even the set pieces feel tame by comparison to some of Bauer’s exploits.
Douglas, too, has his own comparisons to conquer, especially given that he’s playing another flawed hero with a reputation for sleeping around. His Pete Garrison draws immediate and obvious comparisons with Clint Eastwood’s Frank Horrigan in Wolfgang Petersen’s In The Line of Fire and similarly comes up short.
Both characters have been involved in past presidential assassination attempts and both are nearing the end of their careers – yet both are given the opportunity to save the day yet again.
But while Eastwood played his bodyguard in line with his age, one gets the feeling that Douglas is attempting to roll back the years and looks unconvincing during some of the grittier action sequences.
The assassination plot itself takes an age to get going and fails to sustain the required tension, while a somewhat sloppy screenplay doesn’t really provide any real back story as to why the killers want the president dead.
What’s more, it only mentions Al Qaeda once, which feels like something of an oversight given the current political climate.
That said, the film does offer less discerning viewers (or those who have never seen 24) relatively undemanding Saturday night viewing that ticks pretty much every box they’d expect. And there are some nice moments between Douglas and Sutherland.
So, as routine and predictable as it feels in places, The Sentinel may still offer some thrills for its target audience.
Running time: 108 mins