Making the Grades
It's tough work taking care of the President of the United States, and no one is more aware of that than Pete Garrison (Michael Douglas). His days as a bodyguard go back far enough to even include the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan--a fateful day when he took a bullet for the Gipper. (At the risk of having Hollywood re-write history, the name of the real agent credited with protecting the President's life is Timothy McCarthy.)
Two decades and many changes later, Pete is still devoted to his job and going well beyond the call of duty with his new assignment of protecting the First Lady Sarah Ballentine (Kim Basinger). Then Pete gets a call from fellow agent and good pal Charlie Merriweather (Clarque Johnson), who hints about some sensitive information he needs to discuss. Unfortunately, before the conversation can take place, Charlie is shot dead on his front doorstep. Local police conclude the murder is the result of a botched robbery, but the Secret Service's top detective, David Breckinridge (Kiefer Sutherland), isn't buying their suggested motive.
Determined to find the truth, David begins his own investigation with rookie agent Jill Marin (Eva Longoria) in tow. Priding himself on never allowing external influences to alter his perspective on a case, he carefully considers every possible suspect. On the list is Pete, who used to be a close friend until David became convinced the agency hero had been involved in an adulterous relationship with his now ex-wife Cindy (Kristin Lehman). Despite his disciplined resolve, as the evidence begins pointing at Pete, David can't help but let past hurts fan the flames of retribution.
Finding himself branded a mole--the first ever in the history of the Service--Pete desperately searches for proof he is not a traitor. In the process he discovers a plot to kill the President is in the works. However, in order to save the Commander in Chief's life and clear the accusations against his name, the former protector of the First Lady will have to divulge a major personal secret.
Unlike many recent movies, this film drops any hint of political agenda and instead concentrates on delivering a solid thriller. Although older audiences will welcome the engaging script and solid performances, there are still a few content issues parents may not appreciate, like frequent discussions about an affair between two characters and a short moment when the couple is shown undressing each other. Violence may also be a concern. At least a half-dozen people are shot on screen (some blood is shown) and the plot maintains a high-tension tone throughout. As well, mild and moderate profanities are used, and a finger gesture is depicted. On the positive side, some consequences for poor choices are dished out in the end, creating a discussion opportunity about the cost of succumbing to lust.
Protecting the President is certainly an honorable profession, and for the most part The Sentinel portrays this occupation in a way befitting the title. Yet, when considering the film for teens, parents may want to be on the lookout for approaching bullets of a different sort.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about The Sentinel.
A character in this film makes a personal decision that may implicate the safety of other people. How do we often justify making decisions we know are wrong by convincing ourselves we aren’t hurting anyone else?
A real Secret Service agent did take a bullet while protecting President Ronald Reagan. Click to find out more about Timothy McCarthy.
Why was President Reagan called the Gipper, and where did the name come from? We thought you would never ask...