The Sentinel

Year: 2006
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Director: Clark Johnson
Producer: Michael Douglas, Arnon Milchan
Cast: Michael Douglas, Kiefer Sutherland, Eva Longoria, Kim Basinger, Martin Donovan
With TV attracting more credibility than it's had in its 50-plus year history because of high quality event shows like 24, Lost and CSI, the old boundaries between movies and TV are shifting, and TV stars have merely to step across a narrowing gap into movie stardom rather than try to claw their way up into what used to be a culturally superior media.

Pre-24, Kiefer Sutherland hadn't been in a noteworthy movie for ages and it looked like he was headed for TV purgatory. But he timed it just right, landing back on the small screen when high quality new shows were making it respectable.

So he arrives in the cast of The Sentinel a new kind of TV star, resurrected to leading man film status because his profile's never quite dipped below the cultural horizon. The same goes for co-star Eva Longoria, whose place in the Desperate Housewives cast assures her as much attention as Tom Cruise or Jennifer Aniston in Hollywood.

They join Michael Douglas as a trio of US Secret Service agents in an effective thriller about a plot to assassinate the President, one that appears to come from inside the service.

Longoria's role is mostly throwaway exposition, the new blood to whom buttoned down and ruthless supervisor Sutherland must explain about the workings of the Service we need to know to appreciate the complexities of the story. They end up pitted against Service veteran and legend Douglas, who goes on the run after being framed for the plot.

Garrison (Douglas) has a nasty secret - he's sleeping with the devoted but emotionally lost First Lady (Basinger). It's an affair that could topple the whole presidency, and after receiving grainy photos of one of their trysts, Garrison is horrified to realise that someone who shouldn't know does - and intends to use it against him.

So when he refuses to account for missing time to the investigating team of David (Sutherland) and Jill (Longoria) - time he's used to go and meet his presumed blackmailer - he's made the prime suspect.

In true American thriller tradition, he doesn't confess all and trust his colleagues and the elaborate system surrounding him to protect his mucky secret, he goes on the lam to prove his own innocence.

It's a very shop-worn premise for a thriller, allowing for a lot of 'inner workings'-laden dialogue and set-ups, but director Johnson doesn't miss many opportunities for a chase or shootout. He also uses a grimy film stock and employs overexposed colours to make it look more like Se7en than the million other slick drama/thrillers that are cut from the same cloth.

Douglas and Sutherland are able leads but capable of much more. Longoria's role employs an interesting paradox, one that asserts anyone is capable of being in the Secret Service based on their merits and shouldn't be judged as a young attractive woman. We're then treated to a sleazy desk clerk enjoying a gratuitous perve of her arse as she walks past. Did some inherent deficiency in the script mean the filmmakers realised she in fact wasn't more than an attractive young woman?

Unless she wants to be old news as fast as... you know, that other girl from that big TV show last year... Longoria now needs to do something interesting like her Housewives co-star Felicity Huffman did with Transamerica.

Likewise, Sutherland needs to use his rejuvenated clout to choose a role that requires more of him than just running and shooting if he wants to keep his stardom's momentum. But with a pretty contrived plot and a little cinematographic flair, The Sentinel sticks strictly to thriller conventions the entire cast fits into with little effort.

© 2011-2024 Filmism.net. Site design and programming by psipublishinganddesign.com | adambraimbridge.com | humaan.com.au