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So Others May Live:
Saving Lives, Defying Death With the Coast Guard's Rescue Swimmers

. "The Guardian"

What I greatly admire about Kevin Costner is not the quality of his movies -- they are so often, as this one is, bloated, overstated and sometimes supernaturally assisted ("The Postman"). I value him for the quality of his subjects -- his unperturbable dedication to pay homage to tribes, organizations and systems in our society that are worthy of dramatic focus and a little myth-making. It takes more than a change in uniform.

Those who have ever had contact with the U.S. Coast Guard will, in all likelihood, have experienced the excellence the service fosters as it performs its varied duties at sea. For those who haven't, let me tell you: that's no myth! It certainly made a name for itself as a government enterprise in the Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans when it rose above all others in its reliability and role-model leadership.

It may be a fair guess that Costner got the idea to feature the extremes of their rescue operations from that showing of excellence, and he does it with him as Ben Randall, the reknowned veteran, elite among elites, and Ashton Kutcher as Jake Fischer, the primary top gun hot-shot of water sports.

When the legendary Randall starts showing signs that his sharpness is off and returns from a disastrous mission injured, he's obliged by his C.O. to pass on his expertise to a new class of trainee recruits. He starts by shocking his staff with his unorthodox methods, not the least of which is to immerse those recruits who haven't yet washed out as a result of his demanding rigors, to a pool full of ice for long enough to make them actually experience the hypothermia they're likely to encounter in a real-world situation. Nothing like experiencing it for yourself to absorb the concept.

His biggest challenge is Fischer, who is so good a swimmer and all-around water athlete that he has vowed to better all of Randall's records and does so. But the two hot-shots don't allow macho competition get the better of them and ultimately realize that they each suffer from tragedies so similar they can understand one another's psychological traumas.

Each also has a sub-plot: Randall tries to patch things up with wife Helen (Sela Ward) who has had all she can take of his always-away-from-home duties (a home-life cliche' amidst the military boys-in-training ones); and Fischer's cute meet at a bar one night and subsequent try at a casual relationship with local sex goddess Emily Thomas (Melissa Sagemiller).

There's much good, earnest character complexity in the mix, though the effort to provide it is not invisible. I was in need of rescue well before its 139- minute landfall was reached. In fact, I was ready to drop anchor, wrap it up and get dry when I was forced to realize the 3rd act was only just beginning.

So, okay, that's a Costner trademark, aided and abetted by action director Andrew Davis and a big-book screenplay by Ron L. Brinkerhoff. But, I'll tell you what: Despite the story cliches, I'm not too sorry I had to wade through it. As a water person I was thrilled by the special effects, the action, the adventure, and what they did with that massive indoor wave pool they had specially built. The intention to pay tribute to the CG, to show what it does and how it differs from such services as the U.S. Navy, was essentially and respectfully accomplished. If it had ended at 90 minutes this film would warrant a salute.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

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The movie rocked!! so good! perfect action movie. only minimal romance.

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(sample frames from movies photographed
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Kevin Costner as Ben Randall.
This time out, a Coast Guard rescue swimmer.

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