A Sentinel, a Satire, and Silent Hill
The secret about this Secret Service thriller is out: The Sentinel is not so thrilling. Still, Michael Douglas shouldn't be feeling too badly about it. At least he was smart enough to stay far, far away from Basic Instinct 2.
In The Sentinel, Douglas plays veteran Secret Service agent Pete Garrison. Fellow agent David Breckinridge (Kiefer Sutherland) suspects that Garrison is having an illicit affair with his (Breckinridge's) ex-wife, and while Breckinridge is right about the affair, he's wrong about whom it involves. Instead, Garrison's trysts--and here's the twist--are with the First Lady (Kim Basinger).
Are you filled with the American spirit yet? Wait, there's more. Things get complicated when Garrison is assigned to investigate a plot to assassinate the President (David Rasche), and make room for a sexy new agent on the force (Eva Longoria of TV's Desperate Housewives).
Director Clark Johnson, who also directed the underwhelming S.W.A.T., and writer George Nolfi, who scripted Oceans 12, have apparently fallen short of the standard set by other secret-agent thrillers like Wolfgang Petersen's In the Line of Fire and Andrew Davis' The Fugitive. In fact, even Kiefer Sutherland's hit television series 24 earns higher marks than this.
Russ Breimeier (Christianity Today Movies) compares it to In the Line of Fire and The Fugitive: "Smoosh the two together and you have this cookie cutter conspiracy thriller. While there's nothing wrong with revisiting familiar material, The Sentinel struggles with execution." He describes the storytelling as "soapy," and adds, "As much as people may want to see Douglas and Sutherland interact and outwit each other, the film confuses acting together with yelling at each other. … The Sentinel suffers from a flimsy and predictable story shallower than the average made-for-television production."
But David DiCerto (Catholic News Service) writes, "The Sentinel strikes a nice balance between being a smart mystery and a straight action film, with some dexterously executed chase sequences. Visually gritty and kinetic, the movie is garnished with pulses of surveillance-style images and sound-bites to create a high-tech atmosphere of paranoia, reminiscent of conspiracy classics like The Parallax View and Three Days of the Condor."
Bob Hoose (Plugged In) began thinking that it was a "nicely crafted little thriller. … But … while The Sentinel doesn't overdo the overt content (sex and gore) the way most of its 21st century peers do, it still puts audiences in the line of fire, leaving them to fend for themselves when it comes to ethics and morals."
Mainstream critics are highlighting the holes in The Sentinel's preposterous plot.
Writer/director Paul Weitz follows up his popular corporate comedy In Good Company and the warm-hearted bachelor antics of About a Boy with something far more ambitious—American Dreamz, a satire about presidents, first ladies, American Idol, and pop culture. And while he's not winning as many rave reviews as he did for his earlier projects, he is getting mixed reactions from the religious press.