Being a Kevin Costner fan (overlooking his involvement in The Postman and Waterworld, that is), I expected a certain level of entertainment from The Guardain, and I was not disappointed.
While the story centers around the world of U.S. Coast Guard rescue swimmers, I found the characters just as appealing as the subject matter.
Not only does Kostner portray reluctant Coast Guard instructor Ben Randall with humor and sincerity, but his "average joe, aw shucks" demeanor is reminiscent of Crash Davis in Bull Durham. (And 17 years later, he looks just as good.)
Teen heartthrob turned Moore clan husband / daddy Ashton Kutcher does a fine job as the full-of-himself Jake Fischer, a fast swimmer with a faster mouth, which often gets him into trouble.
The cast is rounded out by Sela Ward, who portrays Randall's estranged wife; relative acting newcomer Melissa Sagemiller, who plays a local / love interest of Fisher's; and veterans John Heard, Neal McDonough, and Clancy Brown as various Coast Guard personnel.
There are plenty of adrenaline-charged scenes, most of which involve either Coast Guard rescue swimmer training or actual missions.
It was refreshing to watch a PG-13 movie, with no nudity (and very little kissing, even); only two swear words, one of which was mild; and little violence, with only a couple of fist fights.
Be sure to watch through the credits at the end of the film, as several old Coast Guard photos are shown, as well as actual rescue mission footage and shots of New Orleans post Katrina.
The presentation is widescreen, with crisp, clear picture quality. A few of the nighttime ocean scenes were dark and hard to see, but other than that, the colors were accurate and clear.
The Guardian did a great job of keeping the background noise (be it a helicopter, music, or bar fight) low enough that the dialogue was always easy to hear. This might be one of the first action movies I've ever watched where I didn't have to constantly adjust the volume according to what was happening in the movie.
I enjoyed the extras almost more than the film itself. The standard Director's Commentary provided lots of details about scenes, but I particularly enjoyed the reasoning behind not using the Alternate Ending, as well as why the Deleted Scenes never made the final cut.
Rounding out the Extras is The Guardian: Making Waves, which explains the impetus behind the movie, as well as how the special effects were created. The fact that members of the Coast Guard were involved with the making of the movie, as well portraying several of the characters in the movie itself, was almost as interesting as the fact that Hurricane Katrina hit during filming, which ended up changing the location where the movie was shot.
Unsung Heroes: So Others May Live, the last Extra included, was filled with actual Coast Guard footage, much of it filmed during the Katrina rescue missions, as well as interviews with rescuers and their families.
In all, The Guardian was entertaining, and would make a great family-night flick. Lots of action / adventure, as well as some drama and, in the end, closure. Anyone with an interest in the military, or specifically the Coast Guard, should be sure to watch the Extras.
Juliet Farmer, aka writnkitten