As the sole survivor, renowned Coast Guard Rescue swimmer Ben Randall (Kevin Costner) is shattered when his crew is killed during a perilous storm rescue. With his marriage to Helen (Sela Ward) on the rocks, Randall is removed from field duty and sent against his will as head instructor to 'A School', elite training ground for young recruits. Using unorthodox teaching methods, Randall tries to instill the life and death issues to his students. But he clashes with cocky, swimming ace Jake Fischer (Ashton Kutcher), who is keen to break records, but not to work as a team member. Randall recognises Fischer's talents and tries to get through to him, in order to make him understand what it takes to be responsible for others' lives.
Review by Louise Keller:
When you read the storyline, you may feel as though you have heard it all before, yet this character-driven drama about redemption feels fresh, mostly due to good storytelling and two fine lead performances. Yes, the elements are formulaic and somewhat predictable, but it is well done and we get involved with the characters. Kevin Costner has never been better as the self-doubting hero, while Ashton Kutcher delivers his most complete dramatic role so far as the ambitious rookie. It's an action movie with buddy elements plus a dash of romance. The main flaw of this otherwise superior Coast Guard Rescue tribute drama is its 139 minute length, which is about half an hour too long.
The pounding waves and merciless seas are the setting, where the Rescue teams face life and death situations on an everyday basis. When Costner's Randall is forced to take the post instructing recruits at the elite 'A School', we quickly learn his training techniques are harsh and unconventional. Tread water for an hour, experience hypothermia and oxygen depravation, or fail. But the most important lesson is the vital element of teamwork. 'Saving lives is a right to be earned,' he tells his class. (He can save lives in the most hazardous situations, but he cannot save his marriage). Star recruit is Kutcher's Fischer ('Goldfish'), a talented brat whose focus is to break Randall's records. He wants to be the fastest, and hold his breath the longest - an attitude which does not impress his teacher. We already know about Randall's inner demons, but soon we learn that Fischer is devoured by demons of his own. When a few beers after hours escalate into a situation out of control, we learn, there is a parallel between the two men.
Emotionally there is much at stake for both men both professionally and personally. Their relationships, aspirations, dreams and disappointments are part of the journey. Everyone has everything to prove as things learned in training become tools for survival. Like the plot points, the ending may not come as a surprise, but the impact is great. Especially worth seeing for Costner and Kutcher's exceptional performances.
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GUARDIAN, THE (M)
CAST: Kevin Costner, Ashton Kutcher, Derek Adamas, Sela Ward
PRODUCER: Beau Flynn, Tripp Vinson
DIRECTOR: Andrew Davis
SCRIPT: Ron L. Brinkerhoff
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Stephen St John
EDITOR: Thomas J Nordberg, Dennis Virkler
MUSIC: Trevor Rabin
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Maher Ahmed
RUNNING TIME: 139 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: BVI
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 30, 2006
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