Suspension of disbelief is often a necessity in appreciating the events of a given film. However, there is only so much disbelief a film can expect its audience to suspend nowadays. Unfortunately, this is the case with “The Sentinel.” A well-intentioned thriller about the United States Secret Service, “The Sentinel” ultimately fails to meet its reality mark. Although suspenseful at times, the overall action of the film lacks plausibility and meaning, thus creating a lukewarm presentation, which under different circumstances might have assimilated a more powerful and intriguing line of events.
“The Sentinel” features seasoned veteran Michael Douglas has the honor of playing this particular protagonist, Pete Garrison, a revered Secret Service agent who finds himself as the lead suspect in a conspiracy to kill the president through the means of a traitor within the ranks of the Secret Service. This unprecedented scenario has the entire outfit up in arms, particularly Agent Breckinridge (Kiefer Sutherland), who becomes convinced that Garrison, his former friend and mentor, is the mole in the department. Breckinridge seems determined to track down Garrison for a large percentage of movie. All the while, Garrison must work with what little time he has to uncover the truth behind this conspiracy and stop the president from being killed, thereby clearing his good name.
The course of this film, while consistently entertaining and fast-paced, does seem to veer from its promising outlook at certain points. The overall logistics of the plot, as well as some of the important character relationships are unbalanced and never developed. Like a kite whose string has been cut, the film falters and eventually spirals downward, plummeting into a careless mess at the end. In fact, the climactic scene is nearly laughable and diminishes any of the optimism that may have initially been posed by the film’s early premise. Douglas and Sutherland are strong in their roles, however such strong and familiar personalities tend to overshadow the specific characters they are attempting to portray in this film. Douglas seemed no different from any of the characters he has played in dozens of thrillers over the past two decades and Sutherland might just as well have been playing his signature “24” character, Jack Bauer, on leave from CTU to work for the Secret Service. If there is one thing that Kiefer Sutherland can still do these days it is running really fast toward and away from the camera. “Desperate Housewives” star Eva Longoria is awfully out of place in her role of “the rookie.” Subsequently, it does not help that the plot leaves her character with virtually nothing important to do, other than to follow Agent Breckinridge around. Kim Basinger, who plays the first lady, remains gorgeous, but sorry darling, the paint is starting to fade.
This overall depiction of the Secret Service could have been done to a greater effect had director Clark Johnson and the filmmakers taken note of Wolfgang Petersen’s “In the Line of Fire.” Maybe Clint Eastwood could have taught “The Sentinel” with both a realistic and intriguing representation of the Secret Service. The entertaining plot comes across as being highly fictional and occurring under very far-fetched circumstances so “The Sentinel” resorts to tired plotlines and pure star power. For those die-hard fans of Douglas, Sutherland or any type of government/conspiracy intrigue, this film will probably suit your immediate tastes. If one wishes to view a more thought-out and, by and large, satisfying dramatization of agents within the United States Secret Service, they would strongly be advised to not waste their time with this film and, perhaps, consult the aforementioned Petersen vision instead.