The Sentinel (12A)

ANDREW CLARKE The Sentinel is a fast, effective thriller which effectively uses America's unpopularity as a backdrop to a story which revolves around a plot by unidentified extremists to assassinate the President.

ANDREW CLARKE

Okay, it may not be In The Line of Fire, but The Sentinel is a fast, effective thriller which effectively uses America's unpopularity as a backdrop to a story which revolves around a plot by unidentified extremists to assassinate the President.

What the film does effectively is show how the man is virtually a prisoner of his position. His every move is shadowed by a host of secret service agents, men in black suits and dark glasses. The first lady can't even go to the loo on her own.

The plot is simple and the presentation is flashy.


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Michael Douglas is a long-serving Presidential protection agent, Pete Garrison, who took a bullet during the Ronald Reagan assassination attempt. But now it appears that there is a new, more sinister assassination threat to current incumbent President Ballentyne and the threat comes from a mole inside the secret service itself.

The plot itself has more holes than a leaky tea bag but the charismatic performances from the leads are almost enough to disguise the flaws. Michael Douglas, the resourceful senior agent with a secret to hide, finds he has been framed while it is up to Agent Breckinridge (Sutherland) and his rookie partner Jill Marin (Longoria) to get to the bottom of this terrorist threat and to expose the culprit.

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Basinger, back to her restrained best, plays a first lady having a torrid affair while David Basche's bland President seems unlikely to inspire any one to want to kill him.

Director Clark Johnson keeps the action moving at a brisk pace and drops in flashes of video-collage representing government eaves-dropping and intelligence gathering to keep the screen busy.

But despite all the doing and fro-ing on screen it is the relationships between the characters that keep your attention.

Emphasising the closed world of the Secret Service everyone seems to have a past with everyone else.

Longoria is a past pupil of Douglas' at the academy while Sutherland used to be Douglas' best friend - until he suspected him of sleeping with his wife.

The twists and turns aren't terribly realistic but they are delivered with enough gusto and conviction to stop the audience from thinking too much about the ridiculous nature of the plot. Michael Douglas - as always - gives terrific value for money and delights in playing flawed heroes while Kiefer Sutherland happily trots out a lightweight re-run of his Jack Bauer character from 24.

But the real revelation is Desperate Housewives Eva Longoria who turns a woefully underwritten role as rookie Jill Marin into one of the most interesting characters in the film.

Through her eyes we get to see this incestuous world of Presidential protection in all its claustrophobic detail.

It's an effective film - not up to the standard of movies like In The Line of Fire - but still delivers a highly entertaining evening out.

 

 

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