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Review: The Guardian

Saturday, September 30th, 2006

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Although formulaic, The Guardian has some gripping action scenes and the pairing of Costner and Kutcher is a good one. Read on:

The Guardian, the latest Kevin Costner film to clock in at over two hours long, recycles every mentor/student and military movie cliché in the proverbial book yet it does so effectively and with enough heart to prove see-worthy.

Costner once played the learner to Sean Connery’s crusty older mentor; now the fiftyish actor finds himself the teacher to a younger star. The torch has indeed been passed to a new generation. A noticeably trimmer Costner portrays veteran U.S. Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer Ben Randall, who holds all the records that can be held. But after a rescue mission goes tragically awry, Ben finds himself stuck with a teaching gig at an Alaska-based Coast Guard academy.

Randall’s tough methods are daunting not only to his students, including high school swim champ Jake Fischer (Ashton Kutcher), but to the other instructors (including Neal McDonough) as well. The school’s commander (John Heard), though, trusts that Ben will make Rescue Swimmers out of these callow youths.

Ben takes a particular set on Jake making his life as hellish as Lou Gossett, Jr. did for Richard Gere in An Officer and a Gentleman (which both this film and Annapolis owe a great debt to). Yes, of course, Ben sees something of himself in this young hotshot. But he also senses a reluctance on Jake’s part to save someone if they were in true jeopardy. So the question that both mentor and student must answer is whether Jake has the courage to sacrifice himself should that moment ever happen.

Jake’s not the only one who must overcome an inner obstacle. Ben, too, has fear and pain left over from the failed mission that led to his instructorship. Does Ben Randall, a legend to his fellow Guardsmen, still have what it takes to be a rescue swimmer? Or is it time for him to retire and try to patch things up with his estranged wife (Sela Ward)?

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