The Guardian (2006)

13 August 2006

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Kevin Costner and Ashton Kutcher team up in this torch-passing tale of the brave men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard. When a routine rescue mission goes horribly wrong and a team of rescue swimmers are killed, their leader Ben Randall (Costner, JFK) is reassigned to teach an elite squadron of Coast Guard Rescue Swimmers down at the naval training base. Still reeling from the tragic loss of his crew, Randall immerses himself in his new job, but his humourless pedagogy rubs a lot of trainees up the wrong way. None more so than cocky young swim champ, Jake Fischer (Kutcher, THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT), whom he takes under his wing. While Jake already shows potential, he lacks the experience that comes with age and still has a lot to learn from his seasoned instructor. Upon graduation, Jake follows Randall to Alaska where he gets his first real taste of what it means to be a USCG Rescue Swimmer, and the values of heroism and sacrifice that entails. Under the no-nonsense direction of Andrew Davis (THE FUGITIVE, UNDER SIEGE), the visceral energy flows non-stop through this familiar but nonetheless riveting affair. Shot in a flat, matter-of-fact manner, the harshness of naval academy life is celebrated without being glamorized, while the rescues at sea are nothing short of hair-raising, making excellent use of CGI effects to plunge the viewer right into the towering waves and storms along with the divers. Several familiar, stalwart faces are on hand to help the boys become men and the men to accept aging gracefully, including John Heard, Clancy Brown, and Neal McDonough. Costner is perfect in a curmudgeonly role that fits him like a tailor-made wet suit. The real surprise is Kutcher, whose acting seems to evolve along with his character, revealing lots of murky depth.

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