a critiQal film review The Guardian (2006)

Plot: After his crew dies during a rescue operation, legendary rescue swimmer Ben Randall (Costner) is sent to "A" school to train the next generation of swimmers. While there, he meets cocky young swim champ Jake Fischer (Kutcher). Seeing potential in the young upstart, Randall pushes Jake to his limits while at the same time trying to overcome his own nightmares and become a rescue swimmer once more.

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With the unlikely pair of Ashton Kutcher and Kevin Costner headlining The Guardian, you can bet this one caught our eye. The previews looked interesting, but we couldn’t quite get past that odd pairing. Since there was absolutely no way to tell how this seemingly bizarre duo would work on-screen, we decided to forgo the movie theater experience, instead waiting for DVD to check out the film.

Kevin Costner, whose age is beginning to show, fits in perfectly with the role he’s been given in The Guardian. An over-the-hill Coast Guard rescue swimmer refusing to give up the ghost, who, after a bad experience in the water, is forced to train a new batch of recruits. Kevin Costner does a great job of portraying the mixed emotions surging through his character’s head. How long will it take him to feel like he can get back in the water again? Is he being put out to pasture? What will he do with his life if his days as a rescue swimmer are done? His character is plagued by these questions every waking moment, and Costner does a great job of conveying that to the viewer.

Ashton Kutcher’s character, who first appears as brash and cocky as Ashton usually seems to be, manages to grow considerably during the film, and really lets Ashton showcase more of what he can do on-screen – and surprisingly, he seems to be up for the challenge, especially sine most viewers will have probably forgotten his good performance in The Butterfly Effect (2004).

Together, Costner and Kutcher play the mentor/mentored roles well. Their scenes together are probably the biggest surprise of The Guardian, as the two of them seem to work very well together. Their banter seems totally unforced, and the grudging respect that gradually grows between them is easy to see.

While the Coast Guard is largely overlooked by most in terms of the military, the viewer will definitely have a new appreciation of the job of the rescue swimmer after watching The Guardian. What these people go through is nuts! Dropping 20 feet from a helicopter into stormy seas to save whoever they can, these guys go above-and-beyond each day, and the movie is definitely a homage to what they deal with.

The special effects help bring the dangers of the job into the forefront in The Guardian. Whether it’s a turbulent sea, or a ship slowly going under, the effects do what they are supposed to: enhance the film, rather than overtake it. While some of the effects are quite impressive, the plot is never lost amidst the waves, and the effects only help to heighten the tension of the film.

While the ending does degenerate a little bit into sappiness, The Guardian is still a pretty darn good movie, lead by the efforts of the unlikely pair of Kevin Costner and Ashton Kutcher. These two work surprisingly well together, and help keep the viewer interested throughout.

The Guardian is a definite rental and a possible buy – although the cheesy ending will most likely keep it out of a few DVD collections.

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