|Guardian, The (2006)|
|Written by Noah Fleming|
|Monday, 23 August 2010|
This film can be categorized as one about a hero that makes sacrifices for others. Therefore, it is quite appropriate that the film is about the Coast Guard, a branch of the military that gets little respect and notoriety. But, "So Others May Live" is quite the appropriate motto for the film.
Kevin Costner, giving one of his best performances in recent memory, stars as Ben Randall, a Coast Guard rescue swimmer that has reached the point in his life where rescue swimmer is no longer a viable option. However, he pushes himself to retain his position. After a opening tragedy, Randall is assigned to the Coast Guard training camp in Washington. He comes onto the base and turns things upside down. He deviates from every standard training practice.
Having spent his life in the ocean off the Alaskan coast, Randall is determined to weed out the weak from the group. One trainee after another fails until there is just a small group left. Within this group is a hotshot that doesn't seem to get the concept of what it is to be a member of the Coast Guard. He simply wants to break records, which just so happen to be held by Randall.
Ashton Kutcher portrays this hotshot, Jake Fischer. Surprisingly, Kutcher doesn't do a half bad job in this film. His performance isn't terrific by any means, resembling many of his other performances, but it is adequate. It wouldn't be a film without a love interest for the young hotshot, which is portrayed by Melissa Sagemiller, better known for her recent work in "Raising The Bar."
The bulk of the film deals with the developing relationship between Randall and Fischer. The two are at odds with each other, eventually coming to understand one another and trusting each other. Just when you think the movie is over, come the graduation ceremony, the film continues with Fischer joining Randall in Alaska.
This last section of the film is very predictable, but again, it is overlooked as it fits with the rest of the story. In the end everything turns out the way it must and the way it should, despite what audiences may hold as a more Hollywood, happy-ending.
This is one of Buena Vista's earlier Blu-ray releases, but it still has a video transfer that rivals many of the current releases. They seem to know what they are doing from the very beginning. The image is solid for the most part. Crashing waves are consistent and detailed without breaking up. It is such a pleasure to see breaking waves without artifacts. Black levels are fairly consistent, only crushing and obscuring details in the shadows a handful of times. Shadow delineation is good for the most part with a few nighttime sequences causing some trouble. Contrast is nicely balanced. Colors are vibrant when need be and subdued at other times. Taking place in the northwest the film is largely washed and bland as a result of overcast skies. Still colorful objects stand out against the gray skies and ocean water. Film noise is the most distracting aspect of the image. It varies greatly from scene to scene. There are several sequences that have elevated film noise and it is a bit jarring. However, I still prefer to this to digitally wiping the noise from the image.
The audio is presented in LPCM 5.1 at 24-bit. This is a substantial upgrade form the compressed Dolby audio track. Still, it suffers from some sound design issues. Surround activity is not as lively as it could have been. Crashing waves during the violent ocean sequences take on more of a generic ambient sensation rather than discreet. It becomes a bit distracting that wave sounds are not discreetly found in the surround channels when we have become accustomed to discreet surround sound. That being said, the surround channels do provide a sense of envelopment for the majority of the film. It is appreciated, but it could have been better. The uncompressed audio track provides for a greater dynamic range. Still, dialogue remains intelligible throughout, with peaks never extending into the harsh range. The frequency response is fairly even, retaining the much of the X-curve feel of theatrical film sound. The LFE output is a bit weak for the amount of ocean violence that is in this film. However, it doesn't provide a little support.
"The Guardian" features some special features that you would still be hard-pressed to find on more recent Blu-ray reviews. Exclusive to the Blu-ray is a Q&A track that allows the viewer to access some audio and some video clips answers to questions throughout the film. Much of this information is redundant, found in the audio commentary. Speaking of which, there is an audio commentary with director Andrew Davis and writer Ron L. Brinkerhoff. "'The Guardian' Making Waves" is a standard making-of featurette. "Unsung Heroes: So Others May Live" contains interviews with actual members of the Coast Guard. Finally, the disc also includes an alternate ending, which is essentially the opposite of the actually ending, and a few deleted scenes.
"The Guardian" is a classic tale of a hero, given bad press due to the amount of clichés. However, I for one enjoyed the film, which was complemented nicely but great audio and video quality. I recommend this title.