Films take too many shortcuts

The Gripe


Hollywood scripts need to stop taking the easy way out.

The Sentinel opens today, with Kiefer Sutherland playing a Secret Service agent struggling like heck to keep the president of the United States from being assassinated. It's no accident that this is essentially the same role he's been playing for five years on Fox television's 24. Casting him in such a similar role keeps the filmmakers responsible for The Sentinel from having to make his character believable; audiences have been buying him in that role for years.

Not that Sutherland is bad in the role; he's very good, one of the few things that make the movie worth seeing. But that's not the point.

The Sentinel isn't the only movie of late to take the easy way out. Films like Eight Below and Take the Lead proclaim that they're based on, or inspired by, true events as a way of avoiding the need to make their stories believable. Audiences right away think they're seeing something that really happened, even though what's onscreen may have only the most tenuous connection to actual events.

These methods suggest laziness on the part of filmmakers who, in these days of declining box-office receipts, are being challenged like never before to come up with ways of attracting audiences. Such shortcuts to verisimilitude are too easy, and audiences are (and should be) demanding more.

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