The Guardian

Movie review by
Cynthia Fuchs, Common Sense Media
The Guardian Movie Poster Image
Waterlogged rescue flick is too intense for kids.
  • PG-13
  • 2006
  • 136 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 12 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 19 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

An arrogant young swimmer learns to support his team and make hard choices in rescue situations; a lonely veteran swimmer trains youngsters to take up his heroic legacy.


Several violent storms at sea; flashbacks show the dangers of Coast Guard rescue-swimming; a rescuer has to punch a hysterical victim; a couple of rescuers die; a helicopter crashes and explodes; a trainer is punched in the nose and bleeds; a couple of barfights with Navy sailors leave Jake (and then Ben) bloodied and bruised; training is hard (in freezing water, holding breath, swimming to the point of exhaustion).


A fairly young couple engages in sexual activity, including passionate kisses and some playful rolling in bed, wearing underwear and mostly under the covers.


One "f--k" several other profanities ("damn," "s--t," "a--hole," etc.).


Wild Turkey liquor bottle is visible.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters drink in bars to get drunk; some vomiting; Ben chews Vicodins to kill physical and emotional pain; some cigarette smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this action drama includes several harrowing scenes of storms and sinking boats at sea. Rescue swimmers valiantly try to save victims, but some deaths occur on screen (not bloody, but sad and -- in one case -- quite disturbing). Kids with fears about water should probably see something else. Sailors and swimmers argue and draw blood in fistfights. A couple falls in love and is shown kissing and in bed (no explicit sex, but tumbling under blankets and some underwear shots). Protagonists drink, take painkillers, and use occasional profanity.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bySagekritter April 9, 2008

Touching and real

With a family member in The Coast Guard and active in search and rescue it was amazing to see the things he has told me about come to life. This film was well... Continue reading
Adult Written byMr Josh T. May 25, 2018

Its okay to let other people in

The Guardian provides good examples of despite losing one team that its okay to open yourself up to a different team. Realizing that sometimes letting go of som... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bymr.write January 6, 2021

Incredible but intense

I love this movie, however my little brother couldn't handle it. The movie is full of action and extremely intense at moments. Many sad things happen.
VIOL... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old July 24, 2018

This is a very good movie

First of all: Why did CSM give this 15+? This is intense but not that intense. And two stars, really? Rotten Tomatoes gave this 37%, I don't agree with th... Continue reading

What's the story?

Kevin Costner stars as Ben Randall, a veteran Coast Guard rescue swimmer who turns to teaching after a traumatic event leaves him unable to carry on as usual. Ben needs to recover his nerve, while cocky student Jake (Ashton Kutcher) learn to play nicely with others, including his girlfriend, Emily (Melissa Sagemiller). Both teacher and student have suffered; the revelations of that suffering lead each to his own sort of manly re-commitment. At the rescue-swimming training facility, Ben's red-lit nightmares are compounded by the fact that his long-suffering wife, Helen (Sela Ward), has left him. He self-medicates and grumps at the recruits, and for 18 weeks, drills his trainees hard. Ben's methods occasionally alarm and annoy his fellow instructors, including resentful second-in-command Jack (Neal McDonough) and skeptical presiding officer Larson (John Heard). During his down time, Ben calls Helen to beg forgiveness and helps Jake avenge a beating he received from disdainful Navy sailors. Though the trainees' ranks do include a woman, the focus here is on boys learning to be men. Ben and Jake see themselves in each other, pretty much to the exclusion of anyone else. When Emily suggests to Jake that Ben may be "trying to push you to be better," Jake sets her straight: "He knows I'm better than he is!"

Is it any good?

With a retread plot, plenty of boy-bonding action, and a shirtless Ashton Kutcher, this is a by-the-numbers crowd pleaser that's about as dull as a heroic redemption story could be.

Per formula, parallel redemption stories grant "emotional" moments to both Ben and Kutcher's Jake. By the time Jake has his big breakdown scene (he cries, though he doesn't actually say, "I got nowhere else to go!"), it's clear that, for all their earnest, actorly efforts, neither man has a chance against Ron L. Brinkerhoff's hackneyed script.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about ways to deal with trauma. How does the movie make the case that focusing on the future (in the form of students to be taught and lives to be saved) helps Ben overcome his guilt, anger, and frustration? What are other ways -- both successful and unsuccessful -- that people deal with traumatic events? How do Ben and Jake's similarities (ambition, competitiveness, tragic pasts) make them ideal partners? What other movies have used a similar structure (tough veteran mentors young hot shot)? Families can also discuss the work of the Coast Guard, including the unit's heroic rescues on the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina.

Movie details

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