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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

You Win Some, You Lose Some.

The Guardian on IMDb

Plot Overview

fishesCoast Guard Senior Chief Petty Officer Ben Randall (Kevin Costner) loses his crew in a fiery crash during a rescue at sea, watches his best friend slip away in the life boat, and has his wife Helen (Sela Ward)—whom he's known “since we were kids”—move out but she left his favorite chair. If this were a country song, his dog would have died. He's already hanging in past the mandatory rescue swimmer retirement age of 40 and is told to go recharge at Shreve­port, LA to help train new swimmers at the USCG's Aviation Survival Technician (AST) Program touted as the toughest in the military. High school champion swimmer Jake Fischer (Ashton Kutcher) is a new recruit out to beat Randall's every record. Triple timer William Hodge is esteemed for his courage to keep coming back for more, but there's one exercise even he won't attempt; he's afraid to go talk to a girl at a wedding—although he talks to his female class­mate. Overly confident Fischer wants to show them how it's done, and he even wagers on it. He approaches the prettiest girl in the place, Emily Thomas (Melissa Sagemiller) an elementary school teacher, and offers up a lame line such as he used to get by with as a high school swim­ming champ. Helen having been around the block a time or two makes a counter offer, that she'll walk out with him if he'll split the money with her. Outside they agree to meet next week in a local watering hole so he can pay her.

happy hugThere next week as he sidles up to the bar and she orders a beer, he remarks, “So you are gonna have a drink with me.” She counters with a laconic, “No, I'm having a drink near you. Entirely different thing.” His sarcastic rejoinder: “You're a real little lightning-rod, aren't you?” This is a significant exchange vis-à-vis some high school grads in the movie “Say Anything” who correctly defined date as “prear­range­ment with the possibility of love.” The two of them are there by prear­range­ment but Miss Lightning Rod has shut down any possi­bilities. How­ever, Jake persists and she agrees to one dance with him, “No attachments, just casual.” They make moon eyes at each other while dancing and the next morning he has to run from her place to almost make muster, his marching class­mates chanting a spontaneous chantey,

Jack Skinner: “Airman Fischer's coming in late, yeah!” Cadets: “Airman Fischer's coming in late, yeah!” Jack Skinner: “Must be nice to go out on a date, yeah!” Cadets: “Must be nice to go out on a date, yeah!”

After a number of such overnights, Jake asks her out on a “real date,” but she wants to stick with “casual” and points out they've been having real dates, she even went to bed with him on the first one. Jake persists and she relents. The movie shows us what they meant by a “real date;” it's one where they dress up to be seen together out on the town. He has a dress uniform for ceremonies, she has formal wear for school events, and they reserve a table at a steak­house with a Maître 'D. But a dustup with some Navy men and a resulting lockup cause Jake to miss it, and she has parent-teacher conferences all through the week, so they're on hold. When they finally recon­nect, Jake having faced death at the end of his training has a more serious attitude towards life and towards her. That's the reason for the pre­ar­range­ment aspect of dating; some­times the universe given a chance will put one in a-whole-nother frame of mind more conducive to survival of the species. Their casual dates were real ones, none­the­less, at least a reality his class­mates envied. And even if he hadn't scored, they'd still be real dates from virgin Hodge's perspective.


royal flushOne of Kenny Rogers's songs concerned a chance meeting with “The Gambler” on a train, who offered a passenger the advice that “the secret to surviving is knowing what to throw away and knowing what to keep.” The refrain of the song goes:

You've got to know when to hold 'em, Know when to fold 'em, Know when to walk away, Know when to run. You never count your money when you're sittin' at the table. There'll be time enough for countin' when the dealin's done.

This wisdom of the gambling man's repartee is old as the hills and was passed on by a raconteur, Agur in Proverbs 30:1, whose four meta­phors offered the same life advice as did Rogers's Gambler. That we find in, (Prov. 30:29-31) “There be three things which go well, yea, four are comely in going: A lion which is strongest among beasts, and turneth not away for any; A grey­hound; an he goat also; and a king, against whom there is no rising up.”

We have Agur's “lion which is strongest among beasts, and turneth not away for any,” and we have Rogers's “know[ing] when to hold 'em.” In our movie Jake knows when to persist in face of a girl's brush off.

We have Agur's “king, against whom there is no rising up,” and we have Rogers's “Know[ing] when to fold 'em” A king who knows when to give in to his subjects doesn't experience any uprising. Ben sets Helen free (“Ben, you're a bigamist”) by signing the divorce papers (“You've been married to the Coast Guard all along.”)

We have Agur's “he goat also” and we have Rogers's “Know[ing] when to walk away.” When his pretty pickup drives off with­out him, Jake can't very well turn around and go back in, because his ruse would be exposed. He's just got to walk away.

We have Agur's “greyhound” and Rogers's “Know[ing] when to run.” When Jake is late for muster, he runs like mad to make the best of it, they're very strict at that school.

The gambler gave the advice:

You never count your money when you're sittin' at the table.
There'll be time enough for countin' when the dealin's done.
There are legends to be made.

Production Values

” (2006) was directed by Andrew Davis. It was written by Ron L. Brinker­hoff. It stars Kevin Costner, Ashton Kutcher and Sela Ward. Kutcher showed he can act. Ward did a good job as Ben's wife. Emily Thomas held down a night life with sailors a school teacher is not supposed to have. Costner lived up to expectations.

It's rated PG–13. It has a runtime of 2 hours, 19 minutes, with­out any fat. The sound­track is worthy of an audio­phile. There are rousing action scenes putting us right in the thick of it. The editing and pacing exceed expectations. Across the board we're given just enough to move the story along and tie it together. Aside from the two lead men, we're not invested in anyone too much, but as half the class gets flunked out, one of the two relation­ships fails, and the sea takes its share of the unlucky, there's a niggling suspicion that we can't expect both leads to survive their perilous calling.

Review Conclusion w/a Christian's Recommendation

A short narration at the end mentions the Coast Guard's standardization that allowed teams from all over to work with­out a hitch at Hurricane Katrina. In the shade of that sentiment is the way these movies, viewed coast to coast, normalize dating relations so diverse people know what to expect and what's expected of them. For the Christian who balks at letting an immoral sailor & a town slut serve as role models, the example proper can be found reading Queen Esther's dating experience in the Bible, which I didn't tie in here but have done in other movie reviews.

This was a great action flick with some love scenes that didn't get too mushy. Well worth the viewing.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Edge of your seat action scenes. Suitability for Children: Suitable for children 13+ years with guidance. Special effects: Well done special effects. Video Occasion: Good for Groups. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Overall movie rating: Four stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture is quoted from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software.

Rogers, Kenny. Songwriter Don Schlitz. “The Gambler.” Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Pub. LLC. Web.