May 14, 2006 -- “The Sentinel” is a fairly typical conspiracy thriller with better-than-average acting talent and high production values giving it a little extra kick. It is not badly written, but the story isn't compelling enough to lift it much beyond average. It is a bit less interesting than good conspiracy thrillers such as “Enemy of the State,” and “The Manchurian Candidate” (the remake).
Michael Douglas of “Don't Say a Word” stars as Pete Garrison, a top secret service agent who has a big secret to hide. He gets into trouble when he uncovers a conspiracy to kill the president and must take a lie detector test. He flunks it because of the big secret and is forced to try to unravel the assassination plot on his own while he is on the run. He is in the cross hairs not only of the Secret Service, but of the assassins, who see him as a threat to their plans. The story plays out by the numbers from there. I was able to guess the identity of the mole in the Secret Service right away, so that wasn't much of a surprise. What was interesting was the way that Garrison is able to unravel the assassination plot using a lot of neat tricks and some clever techniques.
Douglas is getting a bit old for the heavy action scenes in the film, but he is a good actor and he handled his end of the acting chores very well. Also good is Kim Basinger of “Cellular” as the First Lady, and Kieffer Sutherland of “Phone Booth” as David Breckinridge, a top Secret Service agent. Sutherland's role in this film is very similar to his role as federal anti-terrorism agent Jack Bauer in the TV series “24.” The difference is, of course, Jack would have taken the shot. Early chatter about this film inevitably centered on Eva Longoria, who plays Secret Service agent Jill Marin in the film. Longoria stars in one of TV's hottest shows, “Desperate Housewives.” She does as well as can be expected with her fairly limited role in this film.
This film isn't bad for a standard action film. It is competently directed by Clark Johnson (“SWAT”). It does a good job of getting inside the Secret Service and revealing the nuts and bolts of the protection business as well as some sophisticated crime detection techniques. It looks and sounds great, but it sure could have used a more imaginative script. A surprise or two would have been welcome, too. This is a competently-made film with high production values and a good cast. There just isn't enough emotional power or cleverness in the plot to lift it much above the average for this genre. This film rates a C+.
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