THE SENTINEL

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis


 

                All the things we associate with presidential assassination attempts rattle around in ďThe Sentinel.Ē  There is a great deal of code talk:  ďClassic is in the oval; Cincinnati is leaving the house; agent down.Ē   The movie is peppered with gunshots, so many in fact, that we begin to listen for the sounds of the bad guysí silencers.  Some bullets hit their targets leaving bodies and blood in the streets; others miss and ricochet off metal while people duck and flee.  In fact, most of this movie is about ducking and fleeing.  People are seen in close up as they drive fast and repeatedly to their destinations; then they dive from the cars and sneak after each other, guns drawn. 

                If this sounds disconnected, it is.  There is no discernible plot, just a noisy jumble of developments.  We know what the movie is supposed to be about if it had been written well.  Secret Service agent Michael Douglas, who saved President Reagan from the assassinís bullet, either did or did not have an affair with Secret Service agent Kiefer Sutherlandís wife, so theirs is a shattered friendship.  Douglas is now involved in an affair with the wife of the president of the U.S. (Kim Bassinger who is pretty and expressionless) whom he is assigned to protect.  If this isnít a dumb premise, Iíve never heard one.

Douglass is framed as a mole in the Service, a potential assassin who must be brought to ground as he tries to escape.   The movie is the search for the real mole.  That may sound like fun, but we are given so little connective information that we donít know anything about the origins and motivations of the heroes and villains.  Itís hard to care about someone we know nothing about.     

                The musical score is entirely out of sync with the movie, overflowing as it is with ominous thumps and soarings that are supposed to underline the action.  Instead, it becomes merely confusing because the action and the noise are unrelated.

                I cannot quite explain what prejudice within me is being awakened by Michael Douglasí affair with the wife of the president, but it felt wrongheaded and unattractive considering his professional assignment.  When finally he cleans out his desk to walk off into the sunset to the applause of his colleagues, the scene seems crafted as a salute to his manliness and seems nothing less than ridiculous. 

                One more reservation for this negative litany:  do we really need movies about the assassination of the president in the climate of hatred and dissension that has enveloped us?  Is it necessary to have someone shoot down the presidential helicopter with a shoulder fired missile?  Or to be reminded that the entire federal government is contained within one square mile?  Itís not so much that terrorists havenít thought of these things themselves.  Itís that I donít want to get used to accepting this kind of behavior as ordinary and expected.


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