Quick Hit: Filled with clichés and overlong, the picture is nonetheless rather compelling in small stretches.
A tale as old as time – no not that one. It’s the tale of an older veteran of something training and passing on his love, knowledge, and respect to a younger, hot-headed, phenom. The Guardian is no different: it tells the tale of Rescue Swimmer (the elite of the U.S. Coast Guard) Ben Randall (Kevin Costner) near the end of his career as he transfers his legendary knowledge to a group of young recruits, in particular Jake Fischer (Ashton Kutcher).
The fact that this is an overused trope aside, it’s easy to enjoy portions of the film. Costner slides effortlessly into the role of a grizzled older performer because he is. Some of the best scenes in the movie are when you see his teaching style; though he is a hard man, he’s not an unreasonable one. He believes in his recruits, wants them to succeed, and will show them that he is not unwilling to do what he asks them to do (take for instance the scene in the iced down pool). Kutcher also shows his talent for sinking into a role, as Fischer’s dark past is uncovered, we see him perform with genuine emotion.
The training scenes and the rescue scenes are also very effective. The rescue scenes were shot in a 750,000 gallon pool, and there is very little about them that doesn’t seem life-threatening. That makes the emotional impact of certain moments that much heavier, even when it’s fairly easy to see them coming.
Therein lies my main problem with the movie despite the extremely capable performances: we consistently see everything coming. It’s not hard with this type of movie, and overall that’s not a terrible problem. But I would have been more surprised if the movie ended when it probably should (after the training sequence, at graduation). Some people might have stated it was a boring ending, but it would have been a fitting one. Instead we get an emotional one that leads to a predictable, warm and fuzzy one. That’s a shame, because it was unnecessary to do so.
Both times I’ve watched The Guardian I’ve thought the same thing: “Wow this is long”. Even though I rarely find myself bored in it, I can’t say I enjoy the whole thing. I’m not really sure why that is though. I think with a bit of fat-trimming, this movie could have clocked in well under two hours and would have been a fast-paced picture that left you breathless with effects and performances. Instead, the length of the film detracts from the positives and makes them seem mediocre.
All in all, most people will probably enjoy a good part of this film. It is, after all, a trans-generational story: one that’s good to watch when you are in a phase of life when you are growing up, or when your parents are with you. I’m going to give The Guardian a “B”.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"