Guardian (The) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (11th February 2007).
The Film

Having seen the trailers for this film during its theatrical run sparked no interest to see it whatsoever, and knowing it was a Touchstone film (distributed by Buena Vista) I knew that eventually I'd be getting the disc to review so I wasn't going to spend my hard earned money to see it theatrically. I believe I made the right decision because "The Guardian" is about as predictable as they come.
Some have likened it to "Top Gun" (1986) but instead of fighter pilots it's about Coast Guard Rescue Swimmers, while it certainly has some similar elements to "Top Gun" it's nowhere near as fun.
"The Guardian" tells the story of two men, the Master Chief Ben Randall (Kevin Costner), an experienced rescue swimmer and the upstart young recruit Jake Fischer (Ashton Kutcher). After a difficult rescue at sea, Randall looses his crew in a tragic accident, leaving him emotionally scarred, combined with the fact that his wife has left him makes Randall a rather unpleasant person to be around. After a time to heal he returns to the Coast Guard with his new assignment, to train the latest batch of recruits. Seeing as he has the experience and know how to do it and that his boss doesn't think he's ready to go back out in the field makes him an obvious choice for the job. The only problem is that Randall doesn't want the gig but reluctantly accepts.
Enter Fischer, a young cocky hot shot swimmer whose goal is to break every record and become the best damn rescue swimmer of all time, heads butt and intense training montages begin as we discover that Fischer and Master Chief Randall don't meld very well. What ensues is a back and forth struggle to get these recruits ready for the dangerous job ahead.
Cue rigorous and demoralizing training montage, cue predictable tension between our Master Chief and the young stud hot shot recruit, cue even more predictable development of mutual respect between Master Chief and hot stud recruit, throw in some CGI water, minor character development and cheesy dialogue and you have "The Guardian".
Because I'm feeling kind I thought I'd start with the pros. The film has some cool sea-faring rescue scenes, shot with a competent visual eye results in some rather impressive sequences, the stunt crew must have been put through a lot considering the large amounts of water and wind thrown at them. The CGI on the other hand still need work as the helicopters still look a bit fake.
Despite the predictability of the training montage it's still fun to watch, besides who can resist a good training montage sequence anyway? I love seeing actors put through the mental and physical pressures of the roles they are playing. Aside from that there wasn't much else to like.
Let's begin with the characters and character development. Master Chief is damaged goods, having lost his wife because he puts his job first and then his crew in a devastating accident at sea he returns to the job emotionally scarred and not exactly willing to train recruits. Cue traumatic flashbacks as he takes his frustration and personal disappointments out on his recruits, in order to train them to be better than he was even though it may appear he has a chip on his shoulder when he's confronted by...yep...you guessed it...our hot stud recruit. The problem with our lead is that although Costner is a capable actor he doesn't bring a whole lot to this film, he basically phoned in his performance. I guess he got too old to actually try anymore, after a while I got the feeling that he was cast not because he was right for the role but rather because he is Kevin Costner. I know what you're thinking...this can't be the case, surely people don't go to movies purely because Kevin Costner is in them...right?...RIGHT!
Additionally I had serious problems with his Randall's wife, Helen (Sela Ward), Randall risks his life to save others, puts the victims first and dedicates himself to his job. Overall he appears to be an honorable and noble person...so basically I can see why his wife decided to divorce him. She probably can't stand nobility...in case you missed it, that last part was sarcasm...and despite all that, he still tries to get her back. If his character can't see what a selfish woman she really is then they deserve each other. If the filmmaker's were able to portray some inclination about how horrible it is for someone to live with a person who you constantly worry about because of their job and that they aren't always there for you then her leaving the marriage would have had depth and motivation. But I guess these things are secondary to the training montage.
Next of course is Kutcher, while he's proved to me that he can in fact deliver a serious performance in "The Butterfly Effect" (2004), he's gone and taken that goodwill and pissed all over it with this film. I honestly felt like I was being Punk'd throughout this film. He was also kind enough to show us that after one dance with Kutcher you'll want to sleep with him, especially if you're a head strong sassy girl like the character of Emily is (Melissa Sagemiller). No matter how sassy you may be 'the Kutch' will wear you down with his sexy slow dance. It felt like the screenwriter was massaging a star's ego whether with the dancing scene or with a lot of the gung-ho moments and attempting to hide it under the veil of authenticity and trying to remain as true as possible to the characters and the profession of rescue swimmers.
The other cast are primarily the other recruits, which were largely forgettable, there is one guy that looks like a less fat version of Sam Gamgee from "The Lord of the Rings" (2001-2003), and a guy that looks like the 'token black guy' from "Not Another Teen Movie" (2001) and guess what? That actor plays a token black guy in this film. He stays largely in the background and never really says anything. I guess to a certain extent these casting decisions were made so that no one really stood out to over shadow our leads. But frankly our two leads are about as cookie-cutter as they come; and when that's the case do you really want that element to shine? Sometimes it may actually be a good thing to cast an exceptional supporting cast of character actors, because god knows this film needs all the character it can get.
As if this wasn't enough the script provided no relief, the dialogue was total ham and cheese often coming across as too try hard for their own good. Lines such as "What makes a legend? Is it what a man does while he's alive? Or is it what he's remembered for after he dies?" and "There is a legend of a man under the sea. A fisher of men. He is called the Guardian." or "I'm a rescue swimmer at heart" and then there's "We're gonna need a bigger boat"...oh wait, wrong movie. Anyway you get the point, delivered with enough gusto and inspirational music in the background and these lines become almost laughable.
"The Guarding" is not a great film, it's not a film you should rush out and see, and it may not be a film you should buy, but if there happens to be rainy day and all the other good DVDs are out then this film might suffice a rental if you're in the mood for something predictable and that doesn't hold a lot of water (pun intended).

Video

Presented in the film's original theatrical ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen this transfer is a 1080p high definition image which uses MPEG-2 codec. The image is sharp and clean but I noticed some grain evident in the print. The CGI in the film looks a whole lot more artificial with this transfer, which was rather disappointing to see. While the colors are accurately displayed I was also impressed with black levels which were spot on. Considering this is a dual layered disc the film is given a lot of space to stretch out but the result is good rather than terrific.

Audio

Four audio tracks are included on this disc, an English Uncompressed PCM 5.1 transferred at 48kHz / 16-bit, as well as standard English, French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 surround tracks. For the purposes of this review I chose top view the film with its PCM audio. The film includes some action sequences that require a dynamic and realistic sound design, combined with dialogue driven scenes and a whole lot of weather effects and you've got a rather complex surround experience on your hands and the PCM track delivers on every level, the sounds are so clean and realistic you'll think it's actually raining overhead during the rescue scenes, or that you're in a helicopter. All the better for a totally immersive track that will rock any home theater set up.

Optional subtitles are also included in English for the hearing impaired, French and Spanish.

Extras

Buena Vista has released this film with all of the extras from the standard DVD release and have also included an exclusive interactive feature as well. These extras include an audio commentary, two featurettes, an alternate ending, some deleted scenes and a Q&A feature. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

First up is a feature-length audio commentary by the film's director Andrew Davis and screenwriter Ron L. Brinkerhoff. This track is mainly screen-specific as they provide background on the film and the subject matter it is portraying. The director focuses on several key elements that include the CGI used in the film, casting, locations etc, while the screenwriter Brinkerhoff talks about the real encounters the rescue swimmers experienced that were used in this film, scripting choices and establishing relationship and working out the dynamics among the cast of recruits. Overall this is a fairly straight-forward track that although does provide some unique information but it's rather dull at times.

Next up is "The Guardian: Making Waves" a featurette that runs for 11 minutes 7 seconds, this is a standard promotional EPK clip and provides only the briefest of clips and most basic information about the product while the key cast and crew tell us how authentic and amazing this film is...boring.

"Unsung Heroes: So Others May Live" is a short featurette running in at 5 minutes 37 seconds and takes a look at the real rescue swimmers of the Coast Guard that inspired this film and the tough job they have to do on a daily basis.

An alternate ending is included with a video introduction by the director Andrew Davis and runs for 3 minutes 6 seconds. SPOILER WARNING: IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THE FILM AND WOULD NOT LIKE THE ENDING SPOILED THEN SKIP THIS SECTION., in this ending instead of Randall falling to his death he lives.

Next are 4 deleted scenes, these include optional audio commentary by the film's director Andrew Davis and screenwriter Ron L. Brinkerhoff, these two provide background on the scene and why it was omitted from the final cut of the film. The scenes can be viewed individually or with a 'play all' option and they include:

- "Randall and Skinner Square Off" runs for 1 minute 47 seconds, the two square off about the treatment of the recruits.
- "Jake And Emily At The Laundromat" runs for 2 minutes, additional character development moments between these two as they get to know each other.
- "Lindsey Is Reassigned" which runs for 1 minute 25 seconds, Randall gives this young recruit another chance by having her train with another instructor.
- "Jake Visits Emily" runs for 1 minute 50 seconds, Jake apologizes to Emily by presenting her with a present.

Also in the disc is a filmmaker Q&A with director Andrew Davis. This is a java based feature that can only be accessible with a Playstation 3 (with the use of their 1.30 firmware upgrade) and a PC Blu-ray drive. This feature cannot be accessed through your stand alone Blu-ray player as it doesn't support java code. It is because of this reason that I am unable to review this extra as I do not own either a PS3 or a Blu-ray drive for my PC. The feature comes with a booklet explaining how to use the function, as there are a series of topics that you can select to ask the director.

Also included is "Movie Showcase" which jumps to three key reference scenes that show off the high-definition quality.

Overall

The Film: C- Video: A- Audio: A+ Extras: C Overall: C+

 


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