In the 2006 movie The Sentinel, director/actor Clark Johnson joins an all star cast of Michael Douglas, Kiefer Sutherland, Eva Longoria, and Kim Basinger in a suspense thriller about the United States Secret Service (USSS) and an intricate plot to assassinate the President of the United States from within the ranks of the president's protection detail. Despite the cast of big names, The Sentinel turns out to be a mediocre thriller with a decent plot, fair acting performances, and lots of flash (e.g. gunfights, explosions, etc.), and I loved every minute of it. The Sentinel is a guilty pleasure--an action flick you do not have to think much about to enjoy.
The storyline revolves around veteran USSS Agent Pete Garrison (Michael Douglas), who saved a president's life twenty years prior by taking a bullet for him and now he heads the protection detail for the first lady. In the opening of the movie, a plot to eliminate the president is slowly revealed. Garrison's friend Charlie Merriweather (Clark Johnson), another longtime veteran of the USSS is murdered after hinting to Garrison about something of the utmost importance.
Sticking their noses in the investigation of Garrison's death is David Breckinridge (Kiefer Sutherland), head of the USSS PID and former best friend to Garrison (Breckinridge believes Garrison had an affair with his wife and there is some bad chemistry between them now), and Jill Marin (Eva Longeria), an agent fresh out of the academy who adds almost nothing to the story. When the two investigate into Merriweather's death, they find it ties into a bigger picture.
One of Garrison's confidential informants approaches him and informs him about a plot to kill the president. Unlike most threats or attempts on the president's life, this one includes a USSS insider and considering there have been no traitors in the USSS in one hundred and forty years, it is a big deal for everyone.
After Garrison informs all of the key players about the conspiracy, Breckinridge is assigned the task to find the mole and all of the USSS Agents on protection details are forced to take a polygraph test to determine whether or not they ARE hiding something, and subsequently most likely to be conspiring against the president. And of all the agents who took the polygraph, Garrison failed. His failure to pass the polygraph makes him Breckinridge's number one suspect.
When Garrison is confronted about the matter, he goes on the run proclaiming his innocent and that he was framed. What Garrison did not want to reveal is that he had been having an affair with the first lady (Kim Basinger). The remainder of the story continues with Breckinridge hot on Garrison's trail, all the while Garrison tries to unravel the intricate plot against the president, prove his innocence, and save the president from an untimely death.
Overall, the plotline does not bring anything new to the table. Hollywood has produced oodles of movies about conspiracies with someone being framed and while on the run trying to prove their innocence. When it comes to The Sentinel, the thrill is not from the movie's suspense, but rather all of the action and the overall grandeur of the plot (a mole in the USSS). There is enough fun stuff included to make the movie flashy, catchy, and action-packed, which I loved about it.
As for the cast, the leading male actors Douglas and Sutherland are pretty convincing in their role. Douglas plays the veteran agent with near perfection and Sutherland fits his role good (he's basically a replica of 24's Jack Bauer). However while Sutherland is solid in his role, there are a few times when he is over-the-top with some corny dialogue about how he is by-the-book and all about the evidence. Longoria's character is a weakness (or rather a far cry from a strength). She plays a supporting character, but never really does anything phenomenal with her character. In her defense, it is not like her role gives her much of a chance. Basinger makes for a sexy and a fairly convincing first lady. Her role is not a huge part of the story and we see far too little of her.
In the end, what The Sentinel lacks in its storyline and characters, it makes up for it by having flash and action to keep your attention. The movie is a nonstop ride with one exciting (and usually unbelievable) scene after the other. Douglas and Kiefer are strong in their roles, although slightly over-the-top with demeanor and dialogue at times, but a successful venture nonetheless. If you enjoy action-packed movies, The Sentinel should be an exciting ride.
The video is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 widescreen color. The transfer is formatted in letterbox widescreen; there are black bars above and below the picture to make an anamorphic 1:78.1 ratio format.
NOTICE: Revision August 31, 2006
When I first reviewed this DVD, I had a special screening copy and I could not comment about the picture quality, because the screener was a single layered DVD with an overly compressed picture that looked decent if you squinted your eyes while watching. Today I received a copy of the retail product and I am happy to say the picture quality looks substantially better. In fact, 150% more data is dedicated to the video transfer, which gives The Sentinel a clearer picture that is not a pain to watch. Most of all, I was happy to find the high motion scenes were no longer plagued with severe ghosting. In short, The Sentinel is a visually appealing movie that makes good use of colors and handles high motion sequences well with minimal visual distortions.
The original comments from the review original posting (August 8, 2006) are preserved here for the reader's curiosity.
As far as the picture quality goes, I cannot comment about it. The copy I have for review is a special screener copy, which is a single layered DVD with a very compressed picture. The copy I have looks okay if you squint your eyes while watching. The fact of the matter is there is a heavy compression and produces a blocky picture, which looks especially awful during the high motion scenes.
While the screener copy I am reviewing looks bad, I can surmise the retail (and final product) would (hopefully) not look nearly as bad. I would assume since the retail version will come on a dual-layered DVD that it would take advantage of the full capacity and look much better.
The audio is presented in English 5.1 Dolby digital surround sound, with two additional dubbed 2.1 Dolby surround sound tracks in French and Spanish. The 5.1 track is dynamic and makes good use of the surround sound capability. In general, the sound quality is good and it provides an audible and clean track for dialogue and it sounds very lively when necessary (sound effects, music, etc.). The DVD also contains subtitles in English, French, and Spanish, as well as support for closed captioning.
After watching The Sentinel, this DVD comes with a few extras to keep you entrenched in conspiracies and the Secret Service. The special features include a full length audio commentary, deleted scenes, and a couple of featurettes.
Commentary features a full length audio commentary with director Clark Johnson and screenwriter George Nolfi talking about the movie and various experiences, both related and unrelated to movie and its production. The commentary should prove entertaining for those who enjoyed the movie, but overall it is not a commentary that will grab your attention.
Deleted Scenes provide bits and pieces of The Sentinel that did not make it into the final cut. There are a total of four deleted scenes and an alternate ending. The scenes are entitled "Garrison and Chaminski Drive to Mall" (1:03), "Jill Suspects Garrison is Innocent" (0:45), "Breckinridge Confronts His Wife, Jacob Bracken Plays the Son" (2:13), "Garrison and Sarah Have a Private Moment" (3:26), and "Alternate Ending" (3:11). The deleted scenes also include optional commentary with George Nolfi.
The Secret Service: Building on a Tradition of Excellence (12:58) is the first featurette and it stars actors Kiefer Sutherland, Michael Douglas, and Eva Longoria, retired Secret Service Agents Gerry Cavis and Kevin Billings, and writer/co-producer George Nolfi. In this featurette the focus is about production related issues in making the movie realistic. The topic titles are "Missions", "The Recruits", "Training", and "Technical Advisors".
In the President's Shadow: Protecting the President (7:36) is the second featurette and stars the same individuals as the first featurette, along with producer Marcy Drogin. The topic of discussion is also about the Secret Service, except the focus is not on the movie's production, but about the Secret Service in relation to the movie and the real world. The topic titles are "Protecting the President", "The Selected Few", "Levels of Protection", and "The President's Shadow".
Lastly, there are two different theatrical trailers for the movie and trailers for Thank You For Smoking, Behind Enemy Lines 2, Romancing the Stone & The Jewel of the Nile, and 24 Season 4.
The Sentinel features some big names from Michael Douglas to Kiefer Sutherland to Eva Longoria to Kim Basinger, along with director/actor Clark Johnson, and despite the all star cast, the movie falls short. What was supposed to be an engaging suspenseful thriller turns out to be a redundant and limited storyline about a man accused of a crime he did not commit. While on the run, he manages to prove his innocence and save the day. The Sentinel is, however, a flashy action flick that you do not need to think about with the appeal of 24 condensed into two hours. It is not great, but I still can't help but like it.