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The Sentinel

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  1. Clearing Your Name, Savings the President. All in a Day’s Work Pete Garrison (Michael Douglas) has spent his whole life working for the Secret Service. He’s risen through the ranks, and his current job is head of the First Lady’s (Kim Basinger) security detail.Complicating his life, he and the first lady have fallen in love and are having a secret affair. Someone has found out, however, and sent the incriminating pictures to Pete.Meanwhile, Walter (Raynor Scheine), a former informant of Pete’s, tells him someone is planning to kill the President (David Rasche). When the little intel that Walter was willing to part with proves true, the Secret Service springs into action. They have a mole in their department and need to find him or her before the murder takes place.Unfortunately, the clues begin pointing to Pete. Internal investigator David Breckinridge (Kiefer Sutherland) is convinced Pete’s the mole. Pete has no choice but to take off and find the truth himself. But can he do that without being arrested?I’ll admit, I was lured to see this movie based on TV advertisement placement. I am a huge fan of the show 24, and this movie looked like it could be similar. Plus it starred that show’s Kiefer Sutherland.Unfortunately, this movie didn’t live up to my high expectations. The story is weak. Things came to the main characters, especially Pete, way too easily. I like seeing characters search for the information they need. Several pieces of information came so quickly, I had to guess how the character figured things out. That’s hardly good story telling.And don’t even get me started on the climax. Several characters, including the villain, behave in completely illogical ways. Additionally, one plot thread is dropped, giving no resolution to that aspect of the story.Since this is a thriller, I expected some tense moments. While I will admit to jumping a time or two, most of the time I wasn’t pulled into the story. I cared about the characters, but the scenes that should have had me on the edge of my seat were rather ordinary.The thing that works in this movie is the characters. The actors do a great job of making us care about what happens. Michael Douglas is in most every scene and does a fine job. Kiefer Sutherland gets to play the guy we’re all hoping our hero can work around to save the day, a switch from his 24 character. He’s up to the part. Not being a fan of Desperate Housewives, I hadn’t seen Eva Longoria before, but she does a great job of playing the rookie caught between the two leads. Finally, Kim Basinger makes a great First Lady.Another thing that sets this movie apart is the setting. Not only do we get great shots of Washington, DC, but we get to see the inside workings of the Secret Service, something I had no idea about. I found those parts of the movie fascinating. Additionally, several scenes take place in the country, and the settings are beautiful.Honestly, this felt like half a movie, with scenes cut out from start to finish. I’m sure if I’d been able to see the whole movie, this would have been great. If you’re interested, it’s worth seeing, but wait for the DVD.

  2. Pedestrian White House thriller that offers little in the way of originality. A mediocre, instantly forgettable espionage American government crime thriller, The Sentinel plays out more like a trumped-up network television show than a fully-fledged motion picture crime thriller. This fractured, overly convoluted tale of a spy within the Secret Service who is trying to assassinate the President is so laughable and implausible that you’ll end up being cynically amused at most of what goes on.The movie is totally dumb, and gets even dumber as it goes on. Michael Douglas – who indeed seems to be fighting the hands of time – plays Special Agent Pete Garrison. A few years back, he slept with the wife of his best friend and protégé, David Breckinridge (Kiefer Sutherland). Now he’s having an affair with first lady Sarah Ballentine (Kim Basinger).When Pete receives incriminating photos of himself and Sarah he realizes he’s being blackmailed. At the same time he also learns that there’s a “mole” working in the secret service plotting to assassinate the president. Things go really haywire when he realizes that someone’s trying to frame him as the perpetrator.Beaten into a corner and in danger of being charged with treason, Garrison goes on the run, partly in order to clear his name and also to hopefully uncover the real architects behind presidential assassination plot. But Breckinridge stays hot on his tale, chasing his former pal with the gorgeous rookie (Eva Longoria) who adds a bit of glamour to the chase. (Eva Longoria as a Secret Service Agent?).Unfortunately The Sentinel doesn’t really work that well. Apart from that fact that you can figure out whom the mole is after about twenty minutes, director Clark Johnson allows his pursuit scenes to run on for far too long. Most of the action is made up of a lot of gratuitous running, crouching, skulking around corners, aiming guns and shooting them. This of course gets a bit boring when carried on for so long.Johnson uses jerky camera work to heighten suspense and to make the film look a little more prestigious that it really is, but this ends up being annoying instead. The same can be said about the film’s overpowering background music as well as its choppy editing. And are the Secret Service really this efficient and on top of things in the real world? When you think of how the government has handled recent tragedies, something tells me they’re not.The Sentinel becomes even more preposterous as it lurches along. The rationale behind the assassination plot is murky at best. And then there’s the big, hugely far-fetched shoot-out at the close, which suggests that infiltrating a small army of gunmen into an international assembly that is supposed to be a G8 summit must be the easiest thing in the world to do. It’s also never really made that clear whom the gunmen actually are, but at least the scenes are shot in Toronto so we get to see some of the City.The movie gradually sinks into a pit of conspiracy clichés, from the D.C. detective who talks like he’s from a Manhattan borough to Pete’s unkempt on-the-street informer who seems to know everything. Even worse, the characters lack in-depth development. It’s also criminally sloppy writing when towards the end of the movie Sutherland’s Breckinridge changes his attitude towards Garrison for the flimsiest of reasons.The performances are pretty much what you see is what you get. Douglas goes through his usual tight-lipped shtick – you would think after thirty years in the business he’d be stretching himself and taking on more interesting roles. Sutherland does his TV show spiel and Longoria – who is never going to the world’s greatest actress – is wasted in a role anybody could have phoned in. And Basinger looks svelte and gorgeous but offers little beyond her appearance as a meek and decorous First Lady. Mike Leonard September 06.

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