The Sentinel [DVD]
Director : Clark Johnson
Screenplay : George Nolfi (based on the novel by Gerald Petievich)
MPAA Rating : PG-13
Year of Release : 2006
Stars : Michael Douglas (Pete Garrison), Kiefer Sutherland (David Breckinridge), Eva Longoria (Jill Marin), Martin Donovan (William Montrose), Ritchie Coster (The Handler), Kim Basinger (Sarah Ballentine), Blair Brown (National Security Advisor), David Rasche (President Ballentine), Kristin Lehman (Cindy Breckinridge), Raynor Scheine (Walter Xavier)
Although there is an odd whiff of staleness throughout The Sentinel, a straight-up, by-the-numbers political thriller about Secret Service agents trying to thwart a Presidential assassination, it is put together with just enough style and ingenuity to keep it engaging. Director Clark Johnson (S.W.A.T.) seems imminently aware that the material is constantly threatening to reek with a made-for-TV vibe, so he punches up the images, giving us gaudy visual tricks out of the Tony Scott playbook, but without drowning us.
The story’s primary plot is derived straight from The Fugitive, with a clearly innocent man who has been falsely accused of a crime simultaneously evading the law and trying to clear his own name. The man in this case is Pete Garrison (Michael Douglas), a veteran Secret Service agent who took a bullet for President Reagan in 1981, but is suspected of being involved in a plot to assassinate the current President (David Rasche). Pete is not exactly squeaky clean, as he is carrying on an affair with the President’s wife (Kim Basinger), a clandestine activity that only adds to his aura of guilt.
Tracking Pete is David Breckinridge (Kiefer Sutherland), his former protégé and best friend who now despises him for intensely personal reasons. David, a consummate professional who can reconstruct exactly what happened at a crime scene just by looking around, is working with a first-day-on-the-job rookie played by Eva Longoria, whose character seems to exist for the sole purpose of giving the movie the cachet of including a cast member from Desperate Housewives.
The screenplay by George Nolfi (Ocean’s Twleve), from a novel by former Secret Service agent-turned-novelist Gerald Petievich, is slick and smart enough not to creak, moving nimbly from plot development to plot development without ever getting weighed down. There are some odd developments, especially the revelation that the would-be Presidential assassins are angry former members of the KGB with heavy accents, which makes The Sentinel suddenly feel antiquated when it should be unnervingly relevant. And, given how good it is at keeping the audience involved with its developing plot, which cuts cleanly between Pete trying to clear his name and the assassination plot taking shape, the movie’s climax devolves into an embarrassingly rote action sequence.
Still, the story is consistently involving enough to keep one’s attention, and Douglas and Sutherland have a fiery chemistry when they’re on screen together; you can feel the genuine tension between them, especially when David confronts Pete is his own apartment with charges of treason. As a whole, there’s a dangerous familiarity that threatens to make the movie seem outdated, but the filmmakers just barely manage to work it to their advantage, making The Sentinel feel more like a throwback than a completely stale retread.
|The Sentinel DVD|
|Distributor||20th Century Fox Home Entertainment|
|Release Date||August 29, 2006|
|VIDEO AND AUDIO|
|The Sentinel looks and sounds great on this DVD. The widescreen (2.40:1) anamorphic transfer is sharp and well defined, with excellent color and contrast. The image appears somewhat dark at times, but this is part of the intended look of the film. While The Sentinel certainly has the hard-edged, saturated visuals of modern thrillers, it is somewhat more classical in its overall look, which is well represented in the video image. The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround soundtrack is loud and aggressive, with strong use of the surround channels for ambiance and envelopment. The LFE channel is also effectively used at crucial moments to give explosions and gunfire a solid, thundering base without being overwhelming.|
|The screen-specific audio commentary by director Clark Johnson and screenwriter/co-producer George Nolfi is interesting and entertaining. They start off talking about the role of the Secret Service, and it only takes two minutes before one of them makes a crack about not wanting take a bullet for George W (the first of many cracks at his expense). They spend much of the commentary talking easily back and forth about making the film--shooting on location in Washington, D.C., working the actors, maintaining a sense of realism, and so forth. |
Also included on the disc are four deleted scenes with optional commentary by Nolfi (three of these scenes are in nonanamorphic widescreen while the fourth is anamorphic). Each of the deleted scenes is fairly brief (the longest is about four minutes) and largely contributes to character development (one scene was cut because it made Kiefer Sutherland’s character seem too hard and unsympathetic). There is also an alternate ending (in anamorphic widescreen) that makes it clear that Michael Douglas and Kim Basinger’s characters will wind up together despite the ambiguous final shots (this scene was wisely cut because, as Nolfi puts it, it gave the film too much of a “pat” Hollywood ending, plus it includes a truly embarrassing process shot). There are only two featurettes included on the disc, both of which are about the Secret Service and their involvement in assuring the film’s verisimilitude. “The Secret Service: Building on a Tradition of Excellence” offers a history of the Secret Service and their involvement in the film, while “In the President’s Shadow: Protecting the President” focuses more on the Secret Service’s current work. Both featurettes include interviews with Michael Douglas, Kiefer Sutherland, Eva Longoria, George Nolfi, and two retired Secret Service agents who worked on the film as technical advisors. Lastly, the disc includes two theatrical trailers, both in anamorphic widescreen.
Copyright ©2006 James Kendrick
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