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New Action Drama 'The Guardian' Centers Around Heroes of US Coast Guard

Kevin Costner and Ashton Kutcher co-star in a new action-drama about Coast Guard rescue swimmers: men and women who brave the worst imaginable conditions to rescue those stranded at sea. Alan Silverman has a look at The Guardian.

Kevin Costner plays Coast Guard senior chief Ben Randall, a veteran rescue swimmer legendary for his daring and skill leaping from a hovering helicopter into the roughest seas.

But a rescue attempt goes terribly wrong; the helicopter crashes and Randall is the only survivor from his entire team. After the tragedy, he is reassigned as top trainer of new recruits to the elite rescue swimmer corps:

Several real Coast Guard swimmers served as technical advisors and appear in the film; and Costner says he was impressed how - as he puts it - "they come in all shapes and sizes."

"Generally speaking, when you talk about a professional athlete or anybody that does something so specific, there usually is a prototype: they're 6'5 [two meters] tall, they're this or that ...they're recognizable," Costner notes. " In this instance, these guys that come to say 'I want to be a rescue swimmer''s interesting, the guys and the women that end up doing it, because it's really about a mental approach. It is not about your size. It's your heart. It's the person that won't quit. So you may look at them and you might not be that impressed, but that's the person you want coming to save you. It's about heart."

Ashton Kutcher co-stars as brash and overconfident young recruit Jake Fischer; in whom chief Randall sees great potential beneath the bravado, so he singles Fischer out for extra-hard training.

"I've definitely had people in my life that have been influential in that way and took the time to look at me as an individual ...who I am and where I struggle," says Kutcher.

Kutcher admits that working with Costner - whom he calls a personal hero - made him felt very much like the character: apprentice to a tough, but experienced teacher. He also says it got him thinking about the real meaning of the label "hero."

"I think real heroes are really hard to find. That's part of the reason why I chose this film," he says. "They are hard to find because they don't go out and talk about what they do like it's something heroic. For these guys, it is just going to work. These guys put their lives on the line, when they go out, for a complete stranger. Most people would not put their lives on the line for a friend; these guys do it for strangers and do it without hesitation. I think that defines a hero."

"What makes a hero? I think sometimes it is that fear steps aside and professionalism takes over," adds Costner. "They do their job."

Costner has played a range of heroes on screen; but he says working with the real Coast Guard swimmers in The Guardian, some of whom were fresh from rescuing Hurricane Katrina survivors on the U.S. Gulf Coast, helped him find a fresh perspective on the movie archetype.

"Heroism is always going to be a staple of movies that travel around the world," he says. " It's something that we recognize and something, in the dark, we admire and also wonder - if you're really being honest with yourself - would I do that? It's interesting how movies make us measure ourselves. We're not as brave or as smart as some of the people we play; but, you know, heroism in the movies can be the smallest thing. It can be a single mom who is raising two kids who has to get up and catch two buses to go to work in the morning and has to start at 5:00 a.m.. In the movies, if we honor that ...if we create the proper story around that ...and the music starts to play, we go 'that's a hero; that woman is heroic!' Heroism exists all around us."

The Guardian is directed by Andrew Davis, whose hits include action films like The Fugitive and Under Siege. It was shot on location along the coasts of Alaska and Louisiana; and while some of the scenes are the result of 'movie magic' special effects, many of the most harrowing scenes are from Coast Guard documentary video of actual rescues at sea.