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Movie Review

The Guardian

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of action/peril, brief strong language and some sensuality

Reviewed by: Keith P. Soencksen

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens, Adults
Action, Adventure, Drama
2 hr. 16 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
September 29, 2006 (wide)
Copyright, Touchstone Pictures (The Walt Disney Company)
Copyright, Touchstone Pictures (The Walt Disney Company)
Copyright, Touchstone Pictures (The Walt Disney Company)
Copyright, Touchstone Pictures (The Walt Disney Company)
Copyright, Touchstone Pictures (The Walt Disney Company)
Copyright, Touchstone Pictures (The Walt Disney Company)
Copyright, Touchstone Pictures (The Walt Disney Company)
Copyright, Touchstone Pictures (The Walt Disney Company)
Copyright, Touchstone Pictures (The Walt Disney Company)
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Touchstone Pictures (The Walt Disney Company)



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Featuring: Kevin Costner, Ashton Kutcher, Neal McDonough, Clancy Brown, Melissa Sagemiller, Brian Geraghty, Sela Ward
Director: Andrew Davis (“The Fugitive,” “Holes,” “A Perfect Murder”)
Producer: Beau Flynn, Tripp Vinson
Distributor: Touchstone Pictures (The Walt Disney Company)

“When lives are on the line, sacrifice everything.”

Ben Randall (Kevin Costner) is one of the most decorated rescue swimmers in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard. His skill, expertise, and raw courage has kept him among the elite ranks of rescue swimmers in Kodiak, Alaska, despite his advancing age. Ben’s heart is devoted to his work, and although his calling is a noble one, Ben finds himself at the end of a marriage that his wife Helen just can’t take anymore. Not long after, Ben’s life is forever changed by a rescue attempt gone bad, in which his crew, including best friend Carl, is killed. He is shaken so badly by the event that he temporarily quits his beloved unit, and gets reassigned as an instructor to an incoming Coast Guard class at Barksdale AFB, LA.

The focus of the movie then turns to Senior Chief Randall’s class of rescue swimmer hopefuls. Predictably, Randall trains his students using unconventional and punishing methods, often exposing the young men to risks that even make Randall’s superiors squirm, and resulting in a 50% dropout rate. Among the students is a prodigy named Jake Fischer (Ashton Kutcher). Jake (a.k.a. “Goldfish”) was a star swimmer in high school, and has a chip on his shoulder to back it up. His cockiness gets him in trouble with the Senior Chief more than once, but Jake manages to retain the Senior Chief’s favor through it all because of the unique bond they share as a result of each man’s tragic past. Here, some imagination is needed. In real life, of course, military leaders are trained to never get personal with their training recruits, nor do they grant forgiveness for such wanton rule-breaking as is perpetrated here.

Upon graduation from the intense 18-week training program, Jake gets assigned to Ben’s unit in Alaska (as if we couldn’t have guessed), resulting in further development of the close mentoring relationship already established between the Senior Chief and his star apprentice. The last 45 minutes or so present a series of daring rescues, exposing Ben’s newest team member to the harshest of conditions. Once again, viewers will have to get past a few rather unrealistic occurrences, but despite this, the stunts are generally well done. The action drives steadily toward the movie’s final climax, but as for the dramatic ending, well, I can’t spoil it in good conscience. So I won’t.

As should already be clear, this movie is packed with strong action from the start. Viewers will find themselves on the edges of their seats a number of times, and those prone to sea sickness may even turn a shade or two of green, especially if watching it on the big screen.

Even ignoring the issues of morality discussed below, this movie is not for anyone under age 13 or 14 due to its intensely perilous and occasionally disturbing action sequences (thus, a PG-13 rating). Adults are treated to some excellent scenery and special effects, and will gain a tremendous respect for the ocean, and for the many heroic Guard members who live out the motto “So others may live,” usually at great cost to themselves and their families.

Unfortunately, although the story told here is gripping and inspirational, Hollywood has disappointed us once again by adding an unhealthy dose of filth. Christian viewers will want to be wary of moderate levels of foul language and sexual content, along with frequent bar scenes (including fights) and alcohol consumption. Some will be tempted to say, “Yeh, well that’s real life.” To that, I say, “Yeh, so?” History has seen numerous examples of powerful action dramas that suffer not a whit for any lack of sinful display. Sadly, such movies are largely a thing of the past. “The Guardian” could have triumphed handsomely without the sex and vile expletives.

Need a few specifics? You can’t have a young, sexy, main character like Ashton Kutcher without a love interest, now can you? Unfortunately, we have to use the term “love” loosely, because Jake and his girlfriend make it clear to each other and the world that they’re not looking for commitment. They just want casual sex. The film shows no nudity, and little in the way of sensual activity, but beware that heavy flirtation and implied sex are definitely persistent. These are what the Bible call lust and fornication, and God it makes very clear in 1 Corinthians 6 among many other places that unrepentance in this area (as in any sin) will be met with eternal judgment. Sadly, most viewers, and even some self-described Christians, will see this flirtatious, sexual escapade as no big deal. I pray that the Lord will open up the eyes of even a few viewers to see this for what it is, recognize it in their own lives, and turn from it now.

[Should I save sex for marriage? Answer]

The main characters are frequently seen with a beer in hand, and in one scene, Ben Randall “eases” the pain of his imminent divorce with a bottle of Wild Turkey. While I wouldn’t describe the use of foul language as excessive, it does include several exclamations of the Lord’s name in vain, along with an only slightly less offensive and unnecessary litany of curses here and there.

Bottom line: This is a great example of a movie with fantastic potential… that was severely diminished by no small pile of offensive garbage. The film’s successes are not outweighed by its shortcomings, but there are bright spots nonetheless. Chiefly, viewers will gain a new found appreciation for the little-known rescue swimmers of the U.S. Coast Guard, who are equivalent in every way to more famous elite military groups like the Army Rangers and Navy Seals. These brave men and women enlist with the full knowledge that they may lose their lives in the line of duty.

In similar fashion, Jesus Christ volunteered to the will of the Father, knowing fully that He would lose His life in the line of duty. And yet, He gave it freely, as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:27-28). The Coast Guard can save a person lost in the grip of the sea, and prolong his Earthly life for a time. Only Christ can save a person lost in the grip of sin, and by His amazing grace, provide eternal life.

Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/Nudity: Moderate

Viewer Comments
Comments below:
Positive—“The Guardian” was one of the best movies I’ve seen in theaters in a LONG TIME!! The entire story line was well written and acted. The offensive content includes brief cussing (I remember “GD” 2x and “F” once) and a scene where Ashton’s character is in bed (nothing is shown) with a “casual” friend. Overall, the movie was incredibly moving and enjoyable to watch. Would not recommend to someone under the age of 15.

To compare moral rating to other movies, I would say it was better than “Pearl Harbor” (morally) but not as clean as “The Day After Tomorrow.” Definitely a must-see for the frequent movie-goer! MUCHOS KUDOS!
My Ratings: Better than Average / 5
—Nicole, age 18
Positive—I found this movie to be quite a nice film, actually. I went to see it with my sister for the first time, and loved it, and I went again last night with my sister and a friend, and loved it the second time through as well. The acting was wonderful, it was humorous, and very inspiring and interesting. The coarse language was minimal, which surprised me, considering it is an action film. There were a few scenes that implied fornication, but nothing that was too blatant. Kevin Costner and Ashton Kutcher both delivered wonderful performances in this movie. They have great on screen interaction, and their characters are very entertaining throughout the story. I thought that it was a really wonderful movie, and one that I would see again. The effects were very good, and the rescue scenes very realistic and believable. It really educated me when it comes to our Coast Guard, and really made me appreciate the sacrifice that these men and women make, that sometimes goes unnoticed. All in all, a very good movie, and one that I highly recommend, if you are looking to be touched, and entertained.
My Ratings: Better than Average / 4
—Melaney A., age 18
Positive—Personally, I thought this movie was very good. There were some scenes that really were unnecessary, including a scene of sexual implication between unmarried individuals. Overall, the movie had a strong plot giving the viewers the ability to fall in love with the characters and in turn helps viewers understand the dangers the Coast Guard workers face. If you can look passed the 1-2 scenes of sex (no nudity) and past minor cursing, I’m sure you can really enjoy this movie. The acting was expertly done and the plot was very strong and enticing.
My Ratings: Good / 5
—Conrad Francis, age 21
Positive—Although this movie has some foul language in it, if you watch and listen to the movie carefully, you will see that the US Coast Guard discourages foul language. They make a point of this in the movie by making the trainees do extra push-ups for one “potty mouth” on the team. It does elude to casual sex, but does not show it. All of this said, I think this was a wonderful movie. We watched it on DVD with our children and then watched the making of the movie. This was amazing! The training that the divers go through is phenomenal! The motto of “So Others May Live” is in a nutshell exactly what this movie is about. The entire cast does an amazing job of portraying this.

If you watch the making of the movie, you will see that many of the cast members are actually real Coast Guards. These men and women deserve our respect and I believe they are truly honored in this movie. The bar room brawl, unfortunately, is based on fact. My nephew, who is in the Navy, explained that many Navymen have a problem with the Coast Guard because they are non-combatants. I believe this was put in the movie for good reason. Maybe they will gain some respect for them.

All in all, our family was thoroughly impressed by this movie. My children had heard of the Coast Guard, but they never knew what they really did. We see the helicopters fly over when we are at the beach and that is about it since we do not live on the coast. Now we have a full understanding of their job and we are in awe of these brave people.
My Ratings: Better than Average / 5
—Nancy, age 38
Negative—This movie had great acting and good action, but it’s strictly a worldly movie. It was offensive to the Christian Faith and any seeker. Come on… now this man lives under the sea and saves people, a type of Christ. I must have missed the job posting for this position. Also it’s misleading the public into thinking that when they die have don’t go to heaven or hell, but into a place to continue to do good for humankind. That’s soothing a soul that there is no judgment after death. Not to mention all the self appointed “god” comments and profanity. This movie was really sad actually. If these parts were not in the movie, it would actually be good… but satan won’t have that will he? His agenda is to create enough doubt in the person watching… all he needs is a touch of it or confusion and he’s happy. I won’t recommend it to anyone.
My Ratings: Offensive / 4
—V, age 40
Comments from young people
Positive—I liked this movie a lot, while I wasn’t pleased with the couple of brief sex scenes and the some of the flirting. I can honestly say the action and the powerful acting from the cast covered that up. The rescue scenes themselves were well done, and it left you on the edge of your seat. While this movie wasn’t the most original, seeing it stole ideas from movies such as “Full Metal Jacket” and “Top Gun,” it does have some it’s moments in the spotlight.

Due to this movie I have a new found respect for the Coast Guard and what they do.
My Ratings: Average / 4
—Mark McDonald, age 17
Positive—This is one of the great movies that 2006 has produced. “The Guardian” is one of the best movies you’ll be able to see this year (at least as far as quality is concerned). This movie is about a group of people who are willing to put their lives on the line to save others (as their motto says). These swimmers don’t do this for any material profit, they do it selflessly to save lives. Christians who watch this will, of course, be reminded of the ultimate selfless sacrifice of Jesus Christ (the sacrifice that is above all sacrifices). Due to this, I believe you’ll have a new degree of respect for the rescue swimmers after seeing this movie.

However, be warned: this movie contains some objectionable content. There isn’t a great deal of it, but there is enough of it to make it worth mentioning. There isn’t much profanity for a movie that lasts over 2 hours, but it is still there in a moderate dose (I’d say about 15-25 instances at the most). You can’t say that you didn’t expect violence to be in a movie like this, but there is some in it that you wouldn’t expect (in other words, violence that doesn’t occur when the swimmer goes out to save people). This violence comes mostly from short bar fight scenes with Navy guys.

But the strongest of the objectionable content comes in two packages. The first package concerns drunkenness. There are many characters that drink and this idea of “relaxation” or (in Ben Randall’s case) “drowning your sorrows” is pretty much promoted in this movie. This is also telling us that we need to expect this behavior from these kinds of people. It shouldn’t be so. Can there not be a hero that doesn’t even try to get drunk?

The second package concerns sex. People like Ashton Kutcher's character seem to be destined for immoral sex in these kinds of movies. Just like drunkenness, this is another immorality that this movie promotes. It’s called “love” by the world, but it is called lust by God and is condemned as a sin by Him. We aren’t shown any part of the sex, but it is clearly implied and there is one scene where the viewer is almost forced to imagine what is going on during the under-the-cover-foreplay. While this immoral sex has consequences the first time, there are no consequences the second time (which basically says “it’s alright as long as you don’t get caught”).

“The Guardian” is a good movie despite all the objectionable content, but it was still dragged down by it. The movie could have cut all the aforementioned out, and it wouldn’t have been any worse. In fact, the movie would have been even better if this content was left out. Though it is such a good movie, I have a hard time recommending it because of the content. It’s one of the best quality releases of 2006, but not one of the best moral ones (and that is the department which causes the dilemma).
My Ratings: Offensive / 4
—Ross, age 17
Positive—I really enjoyed this film. The acting, special effects and the whole story line was excellent. I was really surprised with the fact that this movie didn’t have a lot of cuss scenes or a lot of sexual content. There were about two cuss words, which is still bad but they were quick. There was the G-D___ word used and I wasn’t sure but I think one d-word. THere may have been more. And there was a part where you knew they (Jake and his new girlfriend) were going to be in bed together, but it didn’t show it, you just had the notation. The excitement factor was great. I loved the whole training aspect that the characters had to go through and the rescue missions were exciting.

From a Christian perspective, I really do enjoy the fact of this movie was focused on what it was supposed to be about and that it didn’t lead to unnecessary scenes. I would advice most people to see this movie, but even I would have to warn some people, not for me, but for some, it may be a little disturbing in the facts of people almost drowning in the waters, people dying and the senior captain’s last experience. But, all in all, I did enjoy this movie and will probably buy it on DVD.
My Ratings: Offensive / 5
—Lacey, age 14
Positive—Oh WOW!!!… I loved this movie. I saw it last Monday, and I just saw it again last night with a few of my friends. It was so Great!!!… I am a Christian homeschooler, and I was not allowed to see this movie until my parents saw it first. So they did, They approved it, and I was able to see it. Mind you there are a few cuss words. Sh** is used quite a few times… D*** is used a few times, and Fu** was used only once in the entire movie. Unlike the movie JARHEAD, this movie is actually clean. My parents saw 5 minutes of Jar head, and they turned it off. They were disgusted! That movie made our military look terrible!!!… THis movie just does nothing but praise the United States Coast Guard. There are 2 scenes that are implying that two of the characters had casual sex. But again I say, it could have been much worse like many other movies. …I do advise parents to watch this movie before their children see it, because all people have different views. But I really enjoyed this movie, and people that have as much passion for the military as me will enjoy it, too! I hope my comments help people make a good decision!…
My Ratings: Excellent! / 5
—Brie, age 15 ½
Neutral—I watched “The GUARDIAN” on a Sunday afternoon in between church meetings. I was with friends from church at the time, and I believe we all came away with a sense of wasted time. The film itself is fairly well made, with very good computer graphics for the heavy storm scenes and helicopter rescue scenes. However, certain parts of the film were ruined by unnecessary sensuality and swearing. The main character seemed obsessed with getting together with the beautiful girl in town, so much so that he even slept with her on their first meeting and was late to his academy lessons the following day. His attitude towards his dream was poor, but he got better. However, it didn’t motivate me as I thought that this film might. Even the character played by Kevin Costner had marital problems which never got sorted out. Overall, I feel this film was let down by a couple of performances and the awful, unclear ending.
My Ratings: Average / 2½
David Simpson, age 17
Positive—…I thought “The Guardian” was the best movie I have ever seen! I loved the directing it was magnificent. Yes, I’m a Christian, but I found no material that was “offensive.” Yes, in the movie Ashton Kutcher slept with this one girl… that’s life, not everyone believes in “waiting for marriage.” Just that one thing in the movie made it offensive? That’s a little extreme! In my words… best movie ever! Made me laugh, cry everything! I was inspired by the quality of it. Now that I have seen it, I’m inspired to be in the Coast Guard to follow my brother’s foot steps and be a Coast Guard diver/swimmer. I hope there’s more movies of this nature! God bless all the USCG and may they be safe!…
My Ratings: Good / 5
—Amber, age 13
Positive—I loved seeing Ashton Kutcher in a serious role. He pulled it off well. The movie was very realistic and inspiring. There is a few troubled relationships but that is only realistic. The movie has a great mix of adventure, suspense/thrills, romance, and a little comedy. Unlike a lot of other movies I saw this year, I left the theatre feeling satisfied, inspired and glad I went. Me and my friends talked about it for an hour afterwards.
My Ratings: Better than Average / 4
—Maggie, age 16