At first glance, this film looks like the Keifer Sutherland series 24 for the big screen. With the focus on a plot to assassinate the President of the United States, a race against time, and plenty of Secret Service agents, the agency under the spotlight in The Sentinel.
But wait, the protagonist turns out to be Michael Douglas' character Pete Garrison instead, a veteran Secret Service agent famed for taking the bullet for Reagan in 1981. The SS agents are specially trained to "take the bullet", which is what makes them special - who in the right mind will put themselves in the line of a bullet and a target? But Garrison gets implicated in the assassination plot, and has to run for his life while at the same time doing his bit of investigations into the plot. All this because of his failure in a polygraph test, due to his adulterous banging of the First Lady (Kim Basinger). Tsk.
There are shades of Clint Eastwood's In the Line of Fire. Both featured aging actors, and aging veteran has-been heroes with a bit of a historical reference, who took the bullet in their respective tours of duty. While Eastwood's movie has a more enigmatic villain in John Malkovich, The Sentinel suffered from its lack of a central strong villain, preferring to share the assassination responsiblity amongst many forgettable ex-KGB villains, and the mole within the Presidential Detail. With Douglas on the run from the law, he becomes similar to Dr. Richard Kimble of The Fugitive, hunting the proverbial one-armed man while at the same time, relying on his smarts to outwit fellow agents, which turned out to be quite interesting to watch - despite slick processes, it still boils down to the performance and gullibility of individual agents.
Keifer Sutherland and Eva Longoria, top TV stars of today from 24 and Desperate Housewives, get relegated into support roles as the Secret Service investigators who are looking into Garrison's probable involvement in the assassination plot, and at times seem to have leapt off the pages of CSI with their forensics skills. The beautiful couple had chemistry that could have resembled X-Files' Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, but alas these two had very little to do here. We know the reason why they're in the movie, and that is to get their fans into the theatres. Also, Longoria's role seemed unable to shake off her sexy-mama Gabrielle, and here, has her in fairly low cut blouses (Sutherland actually tells her to cover up) and tight pants (ogle-fest for fellow agents).
Nonetheless, it's still a pretty interesting look into the lives of probably the most highly charged and tense protection detail in the world, and the typical threats that they face daily, including the following up on every nutcase's threat on the life of the most powerful man in the world. It's a decent suspense and investigative thriller, with enough subplots to keep you entertained. But one thing though, like most ending action sequences, this one has a big enough loophole for you to fly a jumbo jet through.