The Sentinel

Starring: Keifer Sutherland, Michael Douglas, Kim Basinger and Eva Longoria
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
RRP: 17.99
Certificate: 15
Available 29 January 2007

Pete Garrison is having a bad day for a secret service agent; he has been having an affair with the President's wife which has left him open to both blackmail and being framed for an assassination attempt on the President himself. His only hope lies in a former colleague who hates his guts and deeply distrusts him.

The Sentinel (2006) was directed by Clark Johnson, who also appears in the film as Agent Merriweather, who has spent his time as both actor and director mostly in the crime genre. The book, by Gerald Petievich, was adapted by George Nolfi, who had previously scripted Oceans Twelve. Although, the film was nominated for a couple of awards it didn't win any, which is unsurprising as this is a strictly by the numbers bland affair - which is a shame as the film could have been so much more than it is.

The major actors all do their best, with what they have, though the sight of a sixty-one year old Michael Douglas (playing Pete Garrison) running around like a maniac is very unnerving. I kept expecting him to have a heart attack at any moment. If that's what you have to do when you have a young attractive wife I'm trading mine in for an octogenarian and the quite life.

For Kiefer Sutherland, who plays Garrison's one time partner Breckenridge, this was a role straight out of 24, a role he plays so well, I don't think that I have seen an actor portray such a hard edged character with such panache since Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry films.

Rounding up the main protagonists is Kim Basinger, who plays the President's wife - an easy on the eye role, but not one which really stretches her abilities or fulfils her early promise. For that you need to see L.A. Confidential (1997).

To even up the boy/girl ratio Breckenridge has been given a new partner in the form of Eva Longoria (Jill Marin) who comes out on top of the "I never knew they could do that" stakes. Of all the actors involved she succeeds the most in stretching her acting muscles, proving that there is more to this lady than what we've seen her do in Desperate Housewives.

The biggest problem with the film is that 24 just does it so much better, that any film that follows on will always inevitably be measured by this and be found wanting.

Given that the film is nothing to get excited about, the DVD has a nice set of extras. First up is a full length audio commentary by the director and screen writer, which surprisingly doesn't consist of them saying "I'm sorry" for an hour and a half. Actually that's too harsh. Both the director and screenwriter come over as very personable, the commentary is light-hearted and enjoyable but doesn't really tell you much about the process of film making.

There are three deleted scenes with commentary by Nolfi, including an alternative ending. The extras conclude with two features, The Secret Service: Building on a Tradition of Excellence and In the President's Shadow: Protecting the President both of which are in their own way interesting and worth at least a single viewing.

The disc is rounded off with Inside Look, which looks at forthcoming titles from Fox. This seems limited to the DVD release of 24, which will only remind the audience of The Sentinel's failings, rather than its strengths. Lastly there is a collection of Coming Soon discs - which is an advert for seasons one to five of 24, you get the feeling at this point that someone has a warped sense of humour. Why they just don't put a sticker on the DVD saying: "If you liked this, your gonna love 24" I just don't know.

In the end the film works hard to grab your attention, but just doesn't have that certain something that lifts it out of the workmanlike category. It's not all bad news, the cinematography's frenetic use of the camera makes you feel that things are much tenser than they really are, as does the fine editing of the film.

In the end the film looks and feels as if it should have been a tense thriller and, if it wasn't for the damp squib at the movie's centre, it might have succeeded.

Charles Packer

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