Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Exploding Helicopter - The Sentinel

Michael Douglas is Pete Garrison, a been-there-done-that Secret Service vet who once “took a bullet” for Reagan and is now tasked with protecting President Ballatine (David Rasche) from a multitude of nutcases who see the US president as The Great Satan. As Douglas insists that all his films must include gratuitous sex scenes his character ends up having an affair with the First Lady (Kim Basinger) and this leads to him being manipulated and framed for an assassination attempt by an ex-KGB “mole” from within the service.

The protector then becomes the quarry as he has to prove his innocence by finding the rogue agent whilst being pursued by squinty eyed protégé David Breckinridge (Kiefer Sutherland) who is letting a personal beef cloud his judgement. Think of it as a poor man’s The Fugitive meeting a poor man’s 24.

Director Clark Johnson has impeccable small screen credentials having been at the helm on Homicide, The Shield and The Wire but he is sadly let down by a script with more holes then a slice of Emmental. No amount of obtuse camera angles and kinetic direction can hide the confused plot (Sutherland starts hating Douglas for having slept with his wife but just forgets this fact and becomes his best friend again when he is on the run), implausible behaviour (right after the President has been attacked by machine-gun welding maniacs the First Lady strolls unprotected into the middle of the shoot out and is captured) and poorly fleshed out characters (Eva Longoria’s rookie Jill Marin could have been played with as much gusto by a Topshop mannequin).

Despite a couple of passable performances by Douglas and Sutherland the film is a major disappointment. When the mole is uncovered the results are about as thrilling as a rainy weekend in Margate.

I have reviewed many turkeys which have been redeemed (at least in part) by a decent helicopter explosion. Here we get the double kick in the balls that are an underwhelming film combined with a lacklustre chopper fireball.

El Presidente is at Camp David pressing flesh with foreign dignitaries and arrives in style in the huge VH -3D Sea King presidential chopper (which is excitingly named Marine One). As it leaves Camp David we see a panoramic shot of it in the distance and without any warning or preamble a missile snakes up from the tree line and hits the chopper. It seems to explode in slow motion and breaks into two. We do not see anything but the briefest of close ups on impact and we do not see the wreckage hit the floor. The whole thing is over in a flash.

Artistic merit

This a spectacularly poor effort with not only a bodged explosion rendered from a distance in disappointingly obvious CGI but with a confusing preamble which makes it feel like the scene was stitched in at the wrong point in the movie.

Exploding helicopter innovation

First time Marine One has ever been destroyed? I’ll be honest I’m guessing here. I think we'll consider this particular explosion an unnovation.

Do passengers survive?

We don’t know for sure but seeing as no major characters are on board no doubt they died a fiery and unpleasant death.


Without doubt Michael Douglas has the finest head of hair in the Secret Service. Period.


It feels as they must have cut a key scene out in the preamble to the downing of Marine One. Perhaps in a misguided attempt to give added gravitas to the explosion, the lack of exposition only adds to the general confusion and half-arsed nature of the story.

Favourite Quote:

David Breckinridge: “Pete Garrison was my best friend. Until he slept with my wife.”

Interesting Fact:

Apparently George Nolfi’s script had done the rounds in Hollywood before being green lit and distributed in 2006. This might go some way to explaining the use of Russian baddies. Sooooooo 80’s.

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