Ashton Kutcher has been known for his comedic efforts since he achieved stardom on “That ’70s Show” and became the host of the reality TV show “Punk’d.” He grabbed more attention starring in movies like “Dude, Where’s My Car?,” “Just Married” and other screwball comedies.
However, his lead role in “The Guardian,” opposite Kevin Costner, proves that there is more to Kutcher than his slightly idiotic roles and celebrity pranks.
After legendary rescue swimmer Ben Randall (Costner) loses his crew in a fatal crash at sea, he is sent to teach at A School, an elite training program for Coast Guard rescue swimmers. It is there that he meets Jake Fischer (Kutcher), a determined trainee who describes himself as “born, bred and water fed.”
Randall turns the program upside down with his tough teaching methods and zero-tolerance attitude. He pushes his students to the limit and eliminates all who fail him. His training methods seem unorthodox to the struggling students who have no idea that he is driven by loss and a love for saving lives.
“If he’s such a stud, what’s he doing here?” Fischer said.
Of course, Randall and Fischer fall victim to the trite movie plot and clash at first, but they soon discover a strong bond: They are both hardened and haunted by great losses in their pasts.
Costner gives a decent performance as the incredibly rough commanding officer with good intentions underneath. He won’t be winning any awards with his performance, but his presentation of a harsh officer helps showcase the movie’s effective portrayal of the trials the U.S. Coast Guard rescuers go through.
The story exhibits the hard fitness training of recruits, the pressures of learning how to work as a team and the harsh conditions that a Coast Guard rescue swimmer must face. The recruits must go through intense training, which includes exercises such as treading water for an hour and standing in a large pool of ice water to experience hypothermia.
The audience is not surprised when Kutcher’s character, a champion swimmer, excels at all of these exercises and manages to break all of Randall’s impressive records at the school while many of his fellow students fail.
“The Guardian” has all the ingredients of a typical inspirational military movie: a determined recruit, a tough instructor with a soft spot, a love interest and some side storylines about other struggling recruits.
The plot is one that has been seen before. The audience can probably predict when touching instrumental music will start playing. Though “The Guardian” stands in the shadows of movies like “G.I. Jane” and “Men of Honor,” Costner’s and Kutcher’s dramatic efforts and the intense rescue scenes keep the movie afloat and audiences interested.
The movie runs a bit long, forcing audience members to check their watches as Randall and Fischer’s relationship develops. It seems as if Fischer’s time at the school ends abruptly after he forms a bond with Randall. Suddenly thereafter, Fischer and Randall are teammates who may end up making the ultimate sacrifice.
The movie, directed by Andrew Davis, may not be an Oscar contender this year with its trite story lines, but it ultimately fulfills its goal of giving audiences a new appreciation for the U.S. Coast Guard.
“This kind of makes me want to be in the Coast Guard,” said junior psychology major Jess Wagner after viewing the film.
With strong imagery and thoughtful characters, it also offers audiences a fine peek at what it takes to succeed in U.S. Coast Guard rescue swimmer training. “The Guardian” will appear in theaters everywhere Sept. 29.