Kevin Costner stars as the callous Ben Randall, a U.S. Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer legend who battles throughout the film to rescue his failed marriage with his wife played by Sela Ward. Paralleling this, Randall loses his entire crew on a rescue mission in the Bering Sea near Kodiak, Alaska.
Taking the loss to heart, Senior Chief Randall is offered an instructor position at the famous “A-School”, to train fledgling swimmers by his commander. Randall reluctantly takes the offer to regain some control over his life and sift through his troubled past.
Among the recruits which have enough heart for you to actually care about them, is Jake Fischer, played by Ashton Kutcher. Fischer is your champion athlete with awards and swimming meet wins to boot. Cocky and full of spirit, Fischer starts out in the “all about me” mode which Randall quickly identifies and makes young Fischer an example.
Though full of promise, Randall takes Fischer and all the other goldfish/recruits on training which is not only by the book, but harsh training which will test the very fabric of the recruits’ motivation as to why they want to become Rescue Swimmers. Fischer is a young Randall in his heyday. Fischer wants to show that he is the best while Randall fights with the fact that he is getting old.
Between the love interests of both characters (with Randall struggling to bring his wife back into his life due to his “marriage” to his career and Fischer’s affair with a savvy schoolteacher played by Melissa Sagemiller) is the arduous Rescue Swimmer training that teaches teamwork and sheer endurance. Fischer’s arrogant, devil-may care attitude eventually transforms into a likeable character that eventually makes Randall proud.
Director Andrew Davis (The Fugitive, Under Seige), delivers a powerful, moving story which involves you from the very beginning of the film and never lets you go. A legend is born and maintained in Randall who becomes, “A Fisher of Men” and remains pervasive in the hearts and minds of all Rescue Swimmers. Kutcher’s performance is excellent and rivals only to that of Costner himself who defies all mentor-student stereotypes and gives us a unique performance where his wisdom and enigmatic nature makes us want to know more about him.
AUDIENCE REACTIONS: The audience rallied behind the recruits and reveled in the trials they underwent. Once Randall was back in gear after calling it quits, we begin our rollercoaster ride of audience cheering and the like. The soundtrack is also worthy of note. Rather than a hindrance in some films, the soundtrack here moves you along an emotional ebb and flow. “Never Let Go” by singer Bryan Adams’ is sure to be a contender. Above all else, this movie is a heavy hitter which gradually builds to a climax worthy of hit status.