“The Guardian” is a 2006 action/drama film which stars Kevin Costner in the lead role. Ben Randall is a highly-qualified rescue swimmer who is usually called upon every time there is a victim to be rescued at sea. While on a rescue mission, he loses his entire crew at sea in a fatal chopper crash, which included his best friend. The pain of being the lone survivor from that occurrence became the most vivid nightmare of his life. Because of this unpleasant incident, his commander temporarily re-assigns him to teach at “A” school to train students to become rescue swimmers.
This is where he gets to meet Jake Fischer (portrayed by Ashton Kutcher), who, like him, was not only a gifted swimmer but also had his own nightmare — a car accident which killed his 3 friends. This common factor between them is what bonds their friendship until Fischer eventually graduates. Returning to the rescue team after his stint at the “A” school, Fischer and Randall get to be partners in Fischer’s first rescue mission, which the latter passes with flying colors. Randall, unfortunately, gets to discover that he hasn’t been able to move on after the incident so he decides to retire.
In one of Fischer’s missions, of which Randall was still informed about, Randall felt uneasy and thought that his former student might need some help. He went to their base and found that indeed, a swimmer was needed to help Fischer. Randall helped Fischer but while being pulled up to their safety, they learned that the cable holding them was getting loose due to a cut in it. Randall detaches himself from the cable to save Fischer, but Fischer grabs his hand and wouldn’t let him go. Randall unfastens his gloves to let his hands free and he finally lets go of Fischer’s hand. Randall drops into the raging waters and his body was never found.
The movie has religious overtures and themes beginning with the welcoming remarks of the head of the “A” school where he states that: “And when the Holy Lord himself reaches down from heaven and destroys his good work with winds that rip houses off the ground, we go out” (“The Guardian”). The head of the school emphasized that the life of a rescue swimmer is a demanding, risky yet fulfilling career because one gets a chance to save lives – “and there is no greater calling than that” (“The Guardian”) he goes on to say. The terms “save” and “calling” are terms both used in religion and theology.
When we say “save” it means rescuing or assisting a person. The Lord Jesus was known as The Savior, and the act of coming down to the earth to become man and to die for man’s sins was Jesus’ way of saving the world – “he saved us from the consequences of sin” (“Study of Basic Christian Beliefs”). On the other hand “calling” usually refers to a vocation or career which a person takes. In most cases, it refers to the entry to the secular life like being a nun or becoming a priest. In this movie, the “calling” referred to is that of being a rescue swimmer – a career which aimed to save people’s lives endangered at sea.
One more religious premise which was depicted in this movie is the initiation of the new students. On their supposed first day of class, Randall instructs the students to jump into the pool and to tread the water for one hour without touching the floor or its sides. This initiation was their “baptism of fire” and at the same time their baptism to the rescue swimmer’s world. The Sacraments of the Catholic Church are the means by which Christ dispenses his salvific grace to the members of the Church (“Catholic Beliefs”).
The sacrament of baptism is the first of the seven sacraments, and symbolizes the removal or the washing away of original sin. Randall taught the swimmers the value of endurance and the value of being determined by ‘washing away’ their pride, illusions, idiosyncracies and preconceived notions on the life of a rescue guard. Another relevant Catholic teaching which was tackled in this movie is the divine characteristic of rescue swimmers, where at certain times they are given the option to choose the people who will live and the ones who will be left behind.
It is a difficult decision to make, and an equally arduous task of carrying the guilt of not being able to save everyone. It is still part of the goal of saving lives, and yet sometimes, the options are just too limited and not everyone can be accommodated in the rescue chopper. Similarly, in religion, the same thing happens although this is not because Jesus or Catholicism cannot accept anymore of the sinners, but rather it is because the sinners themselves do not want to leave their old ways and just prefer to stay where they are.
In Catholic teachings, Jesus Christ came down to earth to suffer for all of man’s transgressions so that there will still be a link between God and man. The goal of Jesus Christ is to save all of mankind but with the existence of evil in the world, some are just overpowered by it, become misled, and eventually, become followers of Satan and his works. In doing their rescue operations, the rescue swimmers were also trained to practice prudence, or knowing when to do the right thing at the right time, which is another religious insight this film puts forward.
The rescue team is expected to save people whose lives are put in danger while they are at sea, and they have to practice keen judgment, superior discernment and utmost precision in assessing perilous situations. This was accentuated in the training of the students when Randall told them that the victims were expecting the rescuers to be the miracle in their lives. As such, they had to keep their focus and try their best to save as many as they possibly can. Prudence is part of the four cardinal virtues or the four primary moral virtues of the Catholic Church.
This virtue can be practiced by anyone and is definitely a positive characteristic which any person should aspire to imbibe. Applying prudence to the vocation of rescuing at sea is a desirable factor which will aid greatly in accomplishing the mission set. Fortitude is another relevant teaching which this movie asserts. Fortitude is also part of the Four Cardinal Virtues, and the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit, which means courage or steadfastness in doing good. “The virtue of fortitude enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death” (“Catechism of the Catholic Church”), which is one trait that rescue swimmers are supposed to possess.
This was evident in the character of both Randall and Fischer as they went about carrying out their rescue missions. Both of them did not show any signs of anxiety or fear in rescuing the victims, which helped a lot in making their missions victorious. In addition, guilt is a common factor between Randall and Fischer, and they both knew that they were not the ones who did the act, yet somehow they questioned the reason why they were the ones who survived the tragedies in their respective lives.
Coming to terms with the realization that your friends are no longer around, or that the families of your friends are suspecting you of foul play, are both grueling tasks which need much time, effort and acceptance. The sufferings they felt may be construed as part of the evil in the world and it is said that “Evil is allowed in order to provide the possibility of a higher order of goodness” (“Catholic Beliefs”).
The ‘higher order of goodness’ was somehow realized when Fischer was able to finally accept that he was not directly responsible for the deaths of his friends, and he finally became a full-fledged rescue swimmer. In like manner, for Randall, this was realized when he took the initiative of sacrificing himself in order to let Fischer live. Related to the previous paragraph is the virtue of Faith, which is one of the three theological virtues – together with Hope and Charity — and are all gifts of grace from God.
Since both Randall and Fischer did not have the answer/s to their question as to why they were the ones who survived, still, they moved along with their respective lives, built on the faith that they will eventually be enlightened at the right time. At first, they both encountered great difficulty in accepting things. Outwardly, Fischer even showed conceit, arrogance and pride which Randall somehow found hard to peel away, but which later on he realized was only part of a mask to hide Fischer’s weakness.
Conversely, Randall showed to his “A” class that he was a stern, strict and ruthless instructor, when, in actuality, he was a soft-hearted man who only wanted to rescue people and train his students to be good rescuers in the future too. Later on, when they became good friends, they learned to have faith in each other, and faith that things will get better in God’s time. The film also touched lightly on the concept of monogamy as Randall was a devoted husband who never looked at another woman in his entire life.
It was just unfortunate that his wife did not empathize with him or his profession to be able to fully understand his career. Marriage is the 5th of the seven sacraments. It means the union of a man and a woman in a committed, life-long relationship. Randall was bent on making his marriage work but his career was just too demanding for his wife, hence her decision to live independently, and later on, divorce him. Ideally, since marriage is a lifetime vow to another person, it means being faithful to the sacrament and making the relationship work.
It has to work both ways, otherwise, the partnership will not succeed — just how Randall’s marriage ended. Lastly, when the movie climaxed and had its denouement, Randall is shown sacrificing himself for the sake of Fischer. Sacrifice is another Catholic teaching which is in consonance with the sufferings which Jesus Christ endured just to be able to save man from the life of sin. Jesus Christ sacrificed himself so that man may live; Randall sacrificed himself so that Fischer may live, and thus, be able to save more lives.
In essence, Randall still chose the option where more lives will be saved. Works Cited “Study of Basic Christian Beliefs”, www. beswick. info, Beswick. info, n. d. , Web. , 25 May 2010. “Catechism of the Catholic Church”, www. vatican. va. Vatican, n. d. , Web. , 25 May 2010. “Catholic Beliefs”, www. saintaquinas. com. Saint Aquinas. , n. d. , Web. , 25 May 2010. _____________________________________________ Movie Reference: The Guardian. Dir. Andrew Davis, Perf. Kevin Costner, Ashton Kutcher. Buena Vista Pictures Distribution, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures International, 2006. Film.
Courtney from Study Moose
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