The Sentinel (8/10)
by Tony Medley
I wonder if Fox is run in the
traditional manner, with creative people in Hollywood (OK, Century City)
with all the decision-makers (aka The Suits) in The Big Apple. In the
old days when poor old Louis B. Mayer of MGM, for example, had to toe
the line to Nicholas Schenck (a suit) from 1924 until Schenck finally
forced him out in 1950 in favor of Dore Schary, often there was second
guessing by the suits who wanted changes the creative people didn’t. I
can’t help but thinking that this is what happened here. Nobody with a
hint of creativity could have allowed a movie to go through 103 tense,
exciting, involving minutes and then end it with two of the more banal,
unsatisfying, anticlimactic minutes ever filmed. Even after they were
added, didn’t anybody watch a final cut of this film?
The idea is that there’s a
mole in the Secret Service, the first in its history. He is helping some
terrorists who are plotting to assassinate President Ballentine (David
Rasche). We don’t know who the mole is. Well, I knew who it was, but the
audience is not supposed to know. It was pretty clear to me, but, then,
I’m a trained professional. I don’t think you can go to the movies as
long as I have been going and not know who it is. Even so, knowing
didn’t destroy the suspense of the film, which is that Pete is the
suspect and the guy who is after him is his former best friend, David
Breckinridge (Kiefer Sutherland), who is ticked off at Pete because
David thinks that Pete Garrison (Michael Douglas, who also co-produced)
slept with his ex-wife and destroyed his marriage. Pete is sexually
active with someone without benefit of clergy, but not with David’s
ex-wife. It’s with someone far more dangerous.
Thrown in as eye candy is
Jill Marin (Eva Longoria). There has to be a beautiful woman in most
films, and that’s Eva’s role. What she adds to the film is that she can
go to Regis and Kelly and Katie and Matt and talk up the film and get
more people to go see it. As far as having any pivotal role in the film,
any reason for being a woman in her role other than affirmative action,
well, forget it.
Contrasted with the role of
Jill Marin, there is a reason for the First Lady (Kim Basinger) to
appear. Basinger, always an asset to any film in which she appears, is
even more beautiful than Longoria, and her role requires her to act,
which she always does extremely well, and she does that here, too.
The film, ably directed by
Clark Johnson, has an abundance of
authenticity. The three stars went through vigorous training, similar to
what agents actually receive in the Academy. They were taught how to
handle, draw, and fire weapons, which are the same weapons used by the
Secret Service, like 9mm Sig-sauers, holsters, belts, and rounds. They
used the same clothing, including protective vests. They learned how to
approach, ride in, and exit a motorcade, which way they would turn, how
to move and act as they surround the person they’re protecting, and
protocols on how to use their bodies as shields. They learned shift
formations when walking with the President and First Lady, like the
“Diamond” and the “Box.”
Despite this attention to
detail, there are a surprising number of plot holes. Like embattled
secret service agent Pete looking out the window of Mrs. Merriweather’s
(Gloria Reuben) house at a maroon Cadillac she said had been watching
her house for three days and having it start up just as he is looking.
This amazing serendipity is exacerbated by Pete jumping in Mrs.
Merriweather’s car and following the maroon Cadillac in the most
unprofessional manner possible, by tailing it with no cars in between
for many miles and never being spotted. Then there are all the secret
service agents taking lie detector tests in coats and neatly tied ties,
but when Pete takes one he’s in shirt sleeves, tie askew, with straps
all around him.
Another oddity for me was
when Pete was getting dressed near the end of the film and he tied his
tie and then buttoned the top button of his shirt. I button the top
button and then put on and tie my tie. Have I been wrong all these
These holes were jarringly
inconsistent with the rest of the film that captivates the viewer with
its intricate showing of the inner workings of the Secret Service, but
they do not destroy the story and tension of the film.
Not, that is, until the
ending. If I were the suit or whoever had final cut, this film would
have ended at the 103 minute mark, with the real ending of the story.
There really weren’t any loose ends to tie up, and if there were, leave
it to the audience to draw their own conclusions. I was thinking
throughout, “This is really a good, involving film.” Then I had to sit
through the last two minutes and they were excruciating.
One unfortunate moment in the
film is near the end when Hollywood just couldn’t let us forget that
this is Hollywood. So the President, in his final speech, says that we
should sign the Kyoto Protocol. OK, Michael, we get it. You’re a
democrat and have never read the Kyoto Protocol and don’t understand it.
But why do you want to trumpet this fact to the world? Fortunately, this
is the only political statement in a non political film.
Cut the last two minutes that
must have been added by a misguided accountant who wanted the loose ends
cleared up, end it with the climax, and you’ve got an entertaining movie
that will allow the audience to walk out satisfied.
April 19, 2006