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THE SENTINEL

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Michael Douglas, Kiefer Sutherland, Eva Longoria, Martin Donovan, Kim Basinger
Director: Clark Johnson
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Surround, Spanish Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Features: See Review
Length: 108 Minutes
Release Date: August 29, 2006

“THE TRAITOR IS STILL OUT THERE, DAVE!”

Film ***

The Sentinel is prime example of how a traditional movie formula can be applied and still succeed through a nice craft by way of both filmmaker and actors. A good way to describe it would be a combination of The Fugitive, In the Line of Fire, with a slight touch of 24 (indicated by the presence one particular cast member). The result is a simply well crafted action thriller with a swift pace to match.

Much like Harrison Ford, Michael Douglas has succeeded through many films at playing a certain character, the professional everyman who ends up getting in way over his head. In this case, he’s got more than just one problem to deal with. And one of the more interesting aspects of The Sentinel is that the hero of the story isn’t so much of an innocent.

Douglas plays Pete Garrison, a veteran Secret Service agent who took a bullet for President Regan during the 1981 attempt. 25 years later, Garrison still holds the same job title, nowadays heading up security for President Ballentine (David Rasche). Soon he receives word from an informant of his that there is very much a plot to assassinate the President.

It all begins with the killing of a fellow agent who Garrison was close friends with and may have had some information regarding the assassination plot. Heading up the murder investigation is David Breckinridge (Kiefer Sutherland), who was once a protégé and close friend of Garrison’s, until a falling out for reasons I’ll leave unmentioned. Breckinridge is partnered with rookie agent Jill Marin (Eva Longoria).

But as the investigation into the murder proceeds, Breckinridge receives some startling and convincing evidence that points out Garrison as a possible mole within the agency. Garrison himself can’t believe how he could be considered a traitor since he has been loyal to his profession for a long time, in addition to initiating the investigation of the agency mole. But Breckinridge is going where the evidence takes him, and it all leads to Garrison.

With no other option, Garrison goes on the lam to not only prove his innocence, but at the same time to prevent other information from getting out which could destroy him professionally, not to mention blow his chances at appearing innocent. Breckinridge vows to hunt him down even as Garrison, who’s always one step ahead, informs his pursuers that the assassination is likely to go down at un upcoming speech in Toronto.

Aside from being a tight knit thriller, The Sentinel manages to plunge the viewer right in the world of the Secret Service. This is very much the first film to give an audience a glance at how the Secret Service operate, even more than In the Line of Fire did. Credit director Clark Johnson, who has made a much better film this time around than his previous (S.W.A.T.), and screenwriter George Nolfi (Ocean’s Twelve) for delivering a superb authentic touch.

And then there’s the terrific cast, led by Douglas and Sutherland who are both in top form. Douglas fits into this role flawlessly. And it’s great to see Mr. Sutherland back on the big screen after watching him save the world on the small screen. Many of the reviews of the film pointed out that Sutherland’s character was basically Jack Bauer in a Secret Service outfit. Well, for my money, that’s a very good thing. Sutherland’s best work has been on 24, so the if he can deliver the same intensity in a similar role in a big movie like this, then he deserves every inch of credit.

The Sentinel is nothing more than a professionally made contemporary action thriller that uses characters, dialogue, and bits of nail-biting suspense to drive its story. The intensity in the scenes between Douglas and Sutherland is the highlight here, and the movie itself is a reminder that such thrillers can be entertaining and smart at the same time.

Video ****

This is a dynamite transfer from Fox. The anamorphic picture is thoroughly lively and loaded with detail. Image quality is clear and completely crisp. Colors are a big plus here, as they are used in enhancing a number of sequences involving death threats to the president, as well as many lively daytime shots late in the movie. The presentation is a superb grand slam!

Audio ****

Same remarks for the sound performance. The 5.1 mix delivers in every notable area of top-flight digital sound. Sequences of action play off most outstandingly, as does that of simple music playback and dialogue delivery. Those same sequences mentioned in the video area involving the death threats also play through the channels at a most effective level. A most strong piece of audio!

Features ***

A nice array of features is found on this Fox release. Included is a commentary track with director Clark Johnson and screenwriter George Nolfi, as well as Deleted Scenes and an Alternate Ending with optional commentary by Nolfi. Also featured are two featurettes; “The Secret Service: Building On A Tradition Of Excellence” and “In The President's Shadow: Protecting the President”. Lastly, there are trailers for this and additional Fox releases.

Summary:

Taking scenarios from past thrillers, The Sentinel ends up becoming a remarkably entertaining action thriller that can hold its own ground. A terrific cast and a high level of finely tuned suspense make this a definite must see for fans of the genre. And yes, it helps to be a member of the Jack Bauer fan club as well.

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