In many ways, The Sentinel feels like a lot of other movies. From The Fugitive we get a person cleverly escaping situation after situation while trying to prove his innocence. From First Daughter or Chasing Liberty we get the idea of what life is like for a Presidential family member. The Interpreter gives us the mood of an assassination plot, while “24” gives us Kiefer Sutherland as a government agent. Despite similarities to all of those movies, The Sentinel is still an entertaining, and at times exhilarating ride.
Director Clark Johnson does an excellent job of showing us the demands put upon secret service agents from the beginning of the film. Everywhere there are potential threats upon the life of the President. It’s up to the agents to determine where these threats are and stop them. The good ones, like Pete Garrison (Michael Douglas) can spot them by instinct alone, honed by years of training. Other agents, like Sutherland’s David Breckinridge, search through overt threats and determine which ones are credible and where they came from. When Garrison discovers the possible existence of a threat within the agency, Breckinridge follows the evidence right to Garrison himself. Suddenly the Secret Service legend finds himself attempting to clear his own name while keeping hidden a secret that could threaten his career.
You would think, in his 60s, that Douglas would be getting a bit old to play parts like this: a clever yet still quite physical role. If anything Douglas is a good suggestion of why Harrison Ford should still be able to pull of Indiana Jones. He plays the role with his usual vigor, giving the part credibility and a lot of heart.
Some of that credibility is stretched, however, by the movie’s plot, which demands a fair amount of suspension of disbelief from the audience. We are told how well trained and excellent Secret Service agents are, but then they are pretty easily duped by both Garrison and the real bad guys of the movie, all of whom manage to remain one step ahead of the agency. If it wasn’t so much fun watching Sutherland play a frustrated agent it might be annoying, although this is nowhere near the level of frustration and intensity that Kiefer brings to the television weekly. It’s not fair to expect that from him though – this isn’t that character, nor is The Sentinel Sutherland’s movie. He’s a supporting actor in Douglas’s film.
Also supporting Douglas is Eva Longoria, who plays a rookie agent under Breckinridge’s tutelage, who was also originally taught by Garrison. It’s through her eyes that the audience is shown ideas and concepts they might not have understood. Most interesting about Longoria is her use as a sex symbol: simply put, she isn’t. Although her fellow agents hit on her periodically during the film, there is no attempt to sex Longoria up by making her a love interest or stuffing her into sexy bedroom attire. She is just another agent, which means she has to rely on her acting abilities, not just her skill at looking good.
If you can suspend your disbelief long enough to accept the film’s leaps of logic, it can be an entertaining ride. If not then the movie is still entertaining, but those moments are interrupted by action that contradicts the movie’s established premise of the quality of Service agents and scenes outside of the main characters’ knowledge that would have been better left a mystery to the audience as well. In other words, plan on leaving your disbelief behind or The Sentinel will just be a long, tiresome watch that could be better spent seeing the individual movies that make up the whole of this one.