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A competent but clichéd tribute to the brave folks in the Coast Guard, this military exercise centers on Kevin Costner, a decorated but aging Rescue Swimmer stationed in Alaska. After a botched rescue mission kills his entire crew, Costner is forced to take a temporary teaching job at the "A" School, an elite training program for young recruits. Soon the grizzled vet is shaking things up with some unconventional teaching methods.

One of his students, cocksure Ashton Kutcher, is nicknamed "goldfish," because of his stellar swimming skills. The promising newbie clashes with his tough mentor during training--and gets into hot water off of the base as well, with bar brawls and a fling with local lovely Melissa Sagemiller.

Predictably, Costner and Kutcher reach a mutual accord, after sharing their painful backstories and a few brewskis, and upon graduation, the officer/gentleman/top gun joins Costner's Rescue Swimmer team. But when Costner returns to the Alaskan waters, he still has demons to contend with...and you get it.

Directed by Andrew Davis (The Fugitive), the flick gets waterlogged by cinematic bloat: a lengthy running time, too many epilogues and an ending that goes overboard on the heroics and mythical stuff. But exciting rescue scenes during raging storms and fine turns by the two leads--as well as Sela Ward, as Costner's exasperated wife--keep The Guardian from totally going under.