September 28, 2006

The Guardian

The Guardian is really three movies. The first has the makings of a great film, full of drama and suspense and a first-person perspective of a dangerous and heroic job many of us — until Katrina at least — had never really thought about. The second is a fun if formulaic coming of age film, part buddy comedy and part sports drama. The third covers pretty much the same territory as the first, only from the outside looking in. All three star Kevin Coster, and the sum of the respective parts feels much longer than the 136 minute running time.
If this movie proves anything, it's that Kevin Costner still has what it takes to lead a movie. He gets equal billing with Ashton Kutcher, but this is his movie through and through. If anything, age has only made him more fascinating to watch onscreen. And he's kept in good enough shape that I never once doubted that his character could do what he was shown as doing. For his part, Ashton Kutcher held his own better than could be expected.
The movie begins with narration, and ends with narration. They might as well have been the same narration, since the opening narration tells you in so many words exactly what's going to happen at the end. The journey in between was interesting and consistently involving, but never really truly inspiring. The people they portray, the Coast Guard rescue divers, are truly inspiring. The times when the movie is actually about rescue diving are the times when the movie hits its truest notes. Staring out the side of a helicopter as the ocean churns twenty feet below is a powerful moment to capture. A story that spends the bulk of its time passing the mantle from one generation of actors to the next is far less so. At the end of the film I still liked Kevin Costner's character a lot more than I liked Ashton Kutcher's. For whatever reason, the baton never got passed on.
Sela Ward, for her part, tackles Costner's character like she tackles Laurie's on "House." Kutcher's love interest gets a good introduction but largely left me wanting more of Sela Ward. The motley crew of Coast Guard recruits were bearable (a few even enjoyable). I found the ending unnecessary, but otherwise nothing stuck out as being less than competent. There really isn't anything, though, that we haven't seen before. ()

  - ADAM LENHARDT

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