Spoiler warner: This article contains spoilers for "The Guardian" (2006)
"The Guardian" is a 2006 movie primarily focused around US Coast Guard Senior Chief Ben Randall (Kevin Costner) and AST student Jake Fischer (Ashton Kutcher). Fischer is a cocky arrogant student who is more about himself and less about the team and Randall must figure out how to turn him into a rescue swimmer. Throughout the movie, Randall, Fischer, and other students learn several lessons.
As a United States Coast Guard rescue swimmer, you will have to periodically deal with loss. Primarily loss will come from losing a victim you were there to save and either the situation changed, was too dangerous, or there were too many people to try and rescue. This type of loss is featured in the movie in a few rescues. However, the movie is based around two other kinds of losses.
For Randall, towards the beginning of the movie, he loses not only several people he was there to rescue (only one still being alive by the time the helicopter got to the scene), but he loses his crew which includes his best friend. Debris hit the tail of the helicopter killing the pilots as the chopper crashed into the waves. Randall's best friend Carl survives but dies in Randall's arms on a life raft before a second rescue team can make it to them. Throughout the movie, Randall deals with the crash and feelings, but I will go into more detail about that later.
For Fischer, further into the movie, we learn a vital piece of information on why he didn't go to an Ivy League school on a swimming scholarship. At 16, after winning the state championship his sophomore year, Fischer and three friends were involved in a car accident that killed everyone except himself. After this Fischer quit swimming and felt out of place in his home town as he began to deal with everyone in his small town believing he was responsible.
2. Just because you beat a record in a pool doesn't mean you will succeed in real situations
From the moment he saw the AST records chart when arriving to "A" school, Fischer primarily was focused on beating the records, all but one held by Randall. After several weeks of training, Fischer got his chance to beat all the records and got his name under every record on the chart. Having felt accomplished Fischer later finds out about another record held by Randall: holding a victim by fingertips for 20 minutes from the scene back to base. This situation is a real-world situation in which Fischer may not be prepared for.
At the end of the movie (spoiler alert) Fischer who has had a change of heart because of Randall attempts to go fingertip to fingertip to save Randall. With a wire ready to snap from the weight of both himself and Fischer, Randall slips his hand out of his glove to save Fischer resulting in his death. Randall knew having trained and changed Fischer's mindset that he wouldn't let go.
3. Sometimes you have to punch a situation head-on
Another AST student, Billy Hodge, has struggled through "A" school and is on his third time. This time Hodges primary struggle is not panicking in the rescue procedure in which he is attacked from the back. While in a jail cell with Hodge, Fischer attacks Hodge until Hodge throws him off. Fischer then tells Hodge use that to throw Instructor Skinner off him. While in the next attempt of the training drill Hodge hits Skinner causing him to bleed. Skinner just smiles and congratulates Hodge for passing the test. For this lesson, it's not always hit someone but find the drive to push through and not panic.
4. Never give up even when you fail
This one again relates more to Hodge in which he has been to the school three separate times. At one point Fischer states you've been here longer than any of us and that he wouldn't have come back. Hodge at that time had spent 10 weeks the first time, six weeks the second time, and had been there six weeks that time eventually graduating the third time. Hodge wanted to be a rescue swimmer and eventually got it having busted his ass multiple times to get there and never giving up.
5. PTSD is real
This one primarily relates to Senior Chief Randall. Having lost 22 people over his career he could've saved and witnessing the death of his team, Randall begins to show signs throughout the movie of PTSD. Several times he has nightmares and during flare training, he walks away and shows signs to the students he isn't truly OK. On his first rescue back in Kodiak, Alaska along with Fischer, Randall suffers an episode of PTSD and believes a victim is dead but in reality, just has a facial gash. At this point, Randall decides to retire before rescuing Fischer on his last rescue which results in his death.
6. Put your ego aside and be a team player
Fischer throughout the movie suffers from being cocky and arrogant, only thinking about himself. After multiple tries, Randall finally gets the gears working in Fischer's head to change him into more of a leader and team player. During the final training sessions on into his first few rescues, we see Fischer become a true leader and be there for his team.
7. You can't carry your guilt with you forever
Having both dealt with losses of their teams Fischer and Randall both carry guilt. After a talk with Fischer's coach and with Fischer, Randall talks with him on the death of his team and he is dealing with the same things. He reassures to Fischer it was nothing more than an accident which can't be changed and he must carry on and be there for the team he has now.
"The Guardian" is a great movie and you can learn a lot from it and relate a lot to it. I've even seen it used in a church service. These aren't the only lessons learned in the movie but the primary ones to stand out. Movies can teach us a lot if we pay attention.