Ads for The Guardian make it look like it’s all big rescues, but it’s really largely Top Dive. There are bookends of big water rescues but the bulk of the movie is the coast guard training academy. Traumatized coast guard veteran Ben Randall (Kevin Costner) teaches a class of recruits about rescue swimming.
The Guardian Review
This isn’t just your standard classroom time with a few drills though. Randall does things his own way, with outrageous demands on his students. Young hot shot Jake Fischer (Ashton Kutcher) (Randall calls him Goldfish, get it?) takes everything he dishes out to prove he’s got what it takes.
The Guardian is entirely predictable but it’s a good formula. It’s not hard to guess what’s motivating Fischer or how Randall will ultimately cap his career, but they make the ride fun.
The challenges facing the trainees are outrageous enough to be cinematic but credible enough to make us think the coast guard may actually train like that. It looks like it would be a good workout if it weren’t for all the freezing wet discomfort. It certainly beats any of the montages in Annapolis.
The actors elevate the material. Costner condescends to the students perfectly with classy cool. Kutcher is a hard head without being annoying about it. Randall even asks him, “Why don’t you do us a favor and quit?” Nice of them to add a few words to the cliché. He didn’t say he had no place left to go though.
All the rescues look like real, old school staged set pieces. If they used CGI, it blended seamlessly. They’re all sort of under the radar with no flashy money shots. It looks like a fair account of what a rescue mission really looks like.
Some scenes belabor the point. We get it: Randall can save lives but not his marriage. That should be 60 seconds, tops. Fischer takes a classmate to a bar simply for a plot point. The help he gives him could have happened anywhere without a bar fight, but oh well.
Why did they bother adding the line about being successful during Hurricane Katrina? Do they really think that’s going to convince the world? Nobody blamed the coast guard for that as much as the authorities who failed to even address the disaster. The Guardian is nowhere near significant enough to address those kinds of issues, but it’s good entertainment.