With its shopworn premise and cast of overly familiar characters, FUGITIVE director Andrew Davis' action tribute to the unsung heroes of the elite U.S. Coast Guard Rescue Swimmers — who pluck drowning men and women out of the sea, often at great risk to their own lives — is a predictable amalgam of every military-academy movie you can think of. Suffering...read more
With its shopworn premise and cast of overly familiar characters, FUGITIVE director Andrew Davis' action tribute to the unsung heroes of the elite U.S. Coast Guard Rescue Swimmers — who pluck drowning men and women out of the sea, often at great risk to their own lives — is a predictable amalgam of every military-academy movie you can think of. Suffering post-traumatic stress after a dangerous Bering Sea rescue ends in a fiery helicopter crash and the death of his entire crew, highly decorated senior chief Ben Randall (Kevin Costner) is transferred away from the Coast Guard Air Station in Kodiak, Alaska. His new home is the USCG Aviation Survival Training Center, where he'll reluctantly help train — and weed out — a new class of hopefuls. Chief among the young bloods is Jake Fischer (Ashton Kutcher), an arrogant high-school swimming star who had his pick of Ivy League scholarships but instead chose to undertake the Rescue Swimmers' rigorous 16-week training session, a program that becomes even more rigorous in Randall's unconventional hands. His personal regimen of oxygen-deprivation tests, endurance swimming sessions and hypothermia exercises cuts the class by half in two weeks, but, predictably, Jake proves the toughest nut to crack. He's more focused on breaking Randall's speed and endurance records than learning to work as part of a team, and Randall, who no doubt sees a lot of himself in the arrogant hotshot, is determined to knock him down a few pegs while turning him into an ace rescue swimmer. No longer capable of selling a major studio film on his own diminishing star power and negligible charisma, Costner has gone the route of other aging Hollywood stars who get a leg up from younger costars. The only surprise is that Kutcher isn't half bad, and even pulls out the tears pretty convincingly when called upon to do so. But the movie is a loose assemblage of cliches, right down to the salty blonde bartender (Bonnie Bramlett) who's been around the base a few times; the local girl (Melissa Sagemiller) who knows she shouldn't get involved with a here-today, gone-in-two-months "puddle pirate" but does anyway, the Bryan Adams theme song, and the "this fraying rope won't hold the two of us!" climax. It's a shame, really; the Coast Guard Rescue Swimmers, true-blue heroes who did so much to help victims of Hurricane Katrina (a fact briefly mentioned in the movie), are relatively unknown, and the movie designed to celebrate their courage is so hackneyed it's hard to care one bit or feel a thing.
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