Starring: Michael Douglas, Kiefer Sutherland, Eva Longoria, Kim Basinger
Written by: George Nolfi
The Sentinel is your classic frame-up story where the hero is part of some group or elite taskforce and is mistakenly considered a bad guy. The hero must now elude capture by his/her old colleagues in order to clear his/her name. Think The Negotiator or Minority Report or any other film that fits the bill. In this case, we have Pete Garrison (Michael Douglas), an aged Secret Service Agent who took a bullet for President Reagan in his younger years. When we meet him in his current older state, he’s still protecting the current President, but the First Lady seems to have added sexual favors to his job description. We find this out, of course, on the heels of hearing Garrison’s close friend tell him that he has something important to disclose, but will wait until later. Note to Self: Whenever someone tells you that they “have something important to tell you,” make them tell you whatever it is right then and there. Nine times out of ten, that person will end up dead before they can tell it to you. Such is the case here. Alas.
Fortunately for Garrison, an informant tips him off to an internal assassination plot on the President by a rogue Secret Service Agent. Things turn for the worse, however, when someone blackmails Garrison into suspicious behavior, using photographs of him and the First Lady as leverage. This causes super-agent David Breckinridge (Kiefer Sutherland) and his new partner (Eva Longoria) to bring Garrison in, who, of course, runs. From there, Garrison must elude authorities, prove his innocence, smoke out the rogue agent and save the President’s life all in what’s left of the 108 minutes of the movie.
Overall, The Sentinel is a decent distraction, but not much more. The enjoyment is hampered by two things:
1. There isn’t enough “movie” in this movie. Sure, it’s feature-film length, but the production value smacks of television. This is very noticeable near the beginning when Breckinridge is explaining to police why an agent was murdered and not simply shot in a robbery gone wrong. There are only four people on the scene and no closeups on any of the details being examined. Even the dialog sounds hamfisted, with basic Secret Service and forensic factoids being revealed like hidden treasure.
2. The main plot – Garrison eluding capture – has very little to do with the bad guys’ agenda. Sure, they were probably happy that the Secret Service was distracted, but it didn’t seem to help the bad guys get to the President any easier. Towards the end, you’ll end up wondering if any of the events surrounding Garrison would have changed the bad guys’ actions at all. Probably not, which creates two separate plots. So enjoying this movie really comes down to deciding which plot you consider to be more important: Garrison’s or the assassination. Movies shouldn’t make you choose.
Based on the book by Gerald Petievich, The Sentinel has some strange character dynamics that seem tossed in for color. Breckinridge has a grudge against Garrison, because Breckinridge thinks Garrison slept with his wife. Eva Longoria’s character dresses too provocatively and constantly gets the eye from other agents. The rogue agent has a soft spot for family. I’m sure these nuances come across great in the book. In the movie, they feel “tacked on.”