Even when the movie strays away from bromides into – gasp – genuine emotion, it overwhelms us with the sheer number of subplots and chapters. Do we really need to see the love interests of both men played out in such detail? Do the haunted past and the heroic final mission really belong in one movie? If this was all original material, it might be more forgivable, but the movie takes too much time over ground we’ve already seen hundreds of times before.
And yet it isn’t all bad. The rescue sequences, in particular, are stirring stuff. You get a real taste of just how brave these men and women have to be – leaping out of helicopters into the frozen ocean with little more than a wetsuit and some flippers. It’s also nice to be able to enjoy heroism without any moral ambiguities. The lack of violence or a need for enemies makes this a kind of low-cal military movie – all the taste without any of the guilt.
The acting is also surprisingly good, with both Costner and Kutcher putting in credible performances. The maturity and authority of Kutcher’s tough-guy persona is particularly unexpected. He’s always had a talent for playing idiots and smug punks, but here he actually shows some spine for once. Costner is as grizzled and blunt headed as always, playing the same battered loner he perfected in his decade in the wilderness of box-office flops. It may not be Oscar winning stuff, but it’s nice to see him back to what he’s good at.
If you’re a fan of stirring, sentimental hero stories then you could do worse than The Guardian. It’s well put together and, despite all the clichés, often exciting and even moving. It’s just a pity that it devotes so much time to stuff we’ve already seen before, and so little to the real heroes whose stories it claims to tell.
- Alistair Fairweather
Kevin Costner whips Ashton Kutcher into shape in this hero-worshipping tale about coastguard rescue swimmers. I'll have extra testosterone with that, please.
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