Before we get started, if you're reading this, you probably remember the ads during 24, when this film was marketed as a Kiefer Sutherland film in which he tried to learn the truth about his mentor, Michael Douglas, who may or may not have been a traitor. I'm going to tell you right now that this is not that film. With that information in mind, you may proceed or bail accordingly.
The first thing we hear is some Secret Service audio, communicating the real-time movements of somebody they're referring to as "Rawhide." And then the picture comes up, and it's black-and-white archive footage of President Ronald Reagan walking out of some place on a certain day in the early '80s, which I'm not about to look up the details because after seeing this movie I don't want the Secret Service coming after my innocently Googling ass. I'll just say that the film will look very familiar to anyone who remembers 1981. Anyway, over the continuing radio chatter, we can clearly see the envelope of security personnel surrounding the Gipper. Fat lot of good it does him, because some Jodie Foster groupie manages to plug the old bastard anyway. Chaos ensues, Reagan gets bundled into the car, and the shooter is quickly hogpiled, just like we've all seen. And then the camera lingers on one faceless Secret Service agent lying on the sidewalk in a pool of his own blood, and the image dissolves into garbled death threats, both written and spoken. The agent manages to roll over on his back, and then he's in his bed instead of on the pavement, but still in his suit. Worse yet, he's being played by Michael Douglas. Already the poor guy can't catch a break. In the dark, his alarm clock flips over to 4:00 and starts beeping, and Douglas -- playing Secret Service Agent Pete Garrison, now in his PJs -- sits up in bed.
Then there's a little montage of Pete's morning routine, I guess to make us feel better about the fact that our leaders' security is routinely placed in the hands of people who have been up since four in the morning. Pete watches SportsCenter while doing crunches and the elliptical trainer in his apartment. He grins at the news that Philadelphia beat Washington last night as we see a framed photo on the wall of himself shaking hands with Bill Clinton (which probably wasn't even faked). The other photo of himself shows him sitting in an Adirondack chair on a dock, holding a drink, next to a relaxed and smiling Kiefer Sutherland. Funny how my grammar checker flags that last phrase. Showered and dressed, Pete pours himself a cup of coffee from a French press, and as he gets ready to put on his suit jacket, we get a good look at all the accoutrements attached to his belt: gun, badge, radio, et cetera. Then there's the obligatory hero shots of the Capitol Mall as the credits continue to roll. Pete walks to work, a big equipment bag over his shoulder. Work is, of course, the White House, where he greets the guy at the front gate by name and blows a jaunty kiss to the security camera. A fake crane shot speeds over Pete walking up the driveway, all the way up to the White House roof where guys in black stand guard all day with binoculars and sniper rifles. I hope they don't think they're blending in. There's more Secret Service chatter on the soundtrack, which we might as well get used to.
Inside the White House, the President is just now waking up. Slacker. He opens the door from his residential bedroom to greet the two agents standing right outside. The guards hand POTUS his locator beacon and a sealed folder containing the daily brief. One of the agents nosily peeks around to see that nobody else is in the Presidential bed. The chatter tells us that "Classic" -- the President's code name -- is up and about. The First Lady -- played here by Academy Award Winner Kim Basinger -- wanders into the room. She puts on her earrings first, in case you're interested. What I want to know is why nobody has commented on the fact that the President of the United States is Sledge Hammer. Four POTUSes I've recapped now, and this is the first one who wouldn't be afraid to shoot somebody with a bazooka.