In The Guardian, Kodiak, Alaska-based U.S. Coast Guard Rescue Diver Ben Randall (Kevin Costner) has just lost his whole team after a rescue-gone-bad, and so he heads down to North Carolina to teach the next generation of recruits. One of those recruits, Jake Fischer (Ashton Kutcher), shows the most potential, but a guilty secret he carries with him threatens to affect his performance. Well, something like that. It’s hard to really describe the plot of the movie without giving away some spoilers, and since the movie has a very linear flow, I can’t really sum it up either. I know, that sounds weird, but the movie did an excellent job of sucking me in right away, and keeping me interested until the end. I’ll try to describe it with as little spoilers as possible.
Most of the film takes place during the training, and it goes into a lot of detail – more than necessary, really – but it adds to the realism of the whole thing. In fact, so much time is spent on Fischer’s training experience that we only get to know maybe two of the other recruits, aside from Fischer. Of course there is the local gal he hooks up with, but it’s understood from the front that it would just be a “casual” thing. (That’s a warning sign that it won’t be casual by the time the movie is over.) The training section is bookended by in-the-field sequences in Kodiak, Alaska.
While the training stuff was interesting and well done, the rescues they had in the film were easily the highlights of the movie. I was very impressed with the realism – the Coast Guard was involved, every step along the way – and thankfully director Andrew David was in top form providing some finger-clenching action sequences that were made all the more impressive by certain segments clearly being visual-effects free.
There is always an emotional element, that being the bond shared between Randall and Fischer over a common loss, and Trevor Rabin’s score effectively highlights those moments, while providing some great action music as well. There’s a pop song at the end of the film, written by Rabin and Bryan Adams, sung by Adams. It’s a nice ballad, and considering how few “best song” contenders I can think of this year so far, I’d say it’s worth a listen.
My biggest beef with the film is the love story. While Ben’s marriage is falling apart, Fischer is in a casual relationship. Okay, fine. When I was at the scoring session a few months back, the film ended nicely, with a narrative coda. But now suddenly there’s a tacked-on ending, which not only cheapens the emotional climax to the film, but also makes us question exactly what happened to one of the lead characters. NOT a good way to leave your audience. The end credits roll with a nice tribute to the Coast Guard through historical photos all the way up to Katrina, and then we’re treated to a lot of second-unit B-roll footage. It’s visually fascinating, and I eagerly look forward to the behind-the-scenes documentaries on the DVD release. Meanwhile, it’s definitely worth a look-see on the big screen, and I am sure the film will do well.