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Against the Sun
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Against the Sun is based on a true story about three American soldiers who survive a plane crash into the Pacific Ocean and are stranded on a life raft. Though not as agonizing as the similar Unbroken, the material is fairly intense. There's some arguing and shouting, some bloody cuts, and a gun fired. An albatross is shot and a shark is sliced open, with guts spilling into the raft. We hear talk of death and a mention of suicide. We see a scary drowning nightmare, a plane crash into the ocean, and a huge storm. Language includes two uses of "s--t" and infrequent uses of "damn" and "hell." Sex is not an issue, but a man describes his sister to another man, as if thinking of setting them up. The main issue here is that Harry Potter fans might be interested in seeing "Draco Malfoy" (Tom Felton) playing an American character, and a good guy. Fortunately, the movie is mainly quite hopeful and not too intense for kids of 11-12 and up.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
During the first months after the United States officially entered WWII in late 1941, patrol planes are sent over the Pacific. On one such plane, pilot Harold Dixon (Garret Dillahunt), bombardier Tony Pastula (Tom Felton), and radioman Gene Aldrich (Jake Abel), find their craft running low on gas and are unable to raise their aircraft carrier on the radio. They crash into the ocean and end up on a small raft, barely big enough for the three of them, with no flares, food, or water and only a ragtag collection of odds and ends. Expecting to be rescued within a day or two, they must eventually survive for 35 days, enduring hunger, thirst, sunburn, sharks, and other challenges, both mental and physical.
Is it any good?
Released in theaters shortly after Angelina Jolie's similarly themed Unbroken, AGAINST THE SUN is a much lower-key film -- more old-fashioned and less graphically agonizing. This kind of material can be a physically grueling experience for viewers, and director Brian Falk carefully balances scenes of despair with scenes of hope.
But the movie has two disadvantages. First, it's clear that it's based on a true story, so we assume that the men will eventually survive to tell their tale. Second, it can be too quickly and easily compared to Unbroken, as well as to two other high-profile "stranded on a life raft" movies, Life of Pi and All Is Lost. With its lower budget and lower profile, Against the Sun can't really offer up anything not already seen in the other films. With the physical limitations inherent in these types of stories, the range of plot possibilities is fairly narrow. Eventually all the movie has is the talent and chemistry of the three actors; fortunately, that's enough to keep it afloat.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Against the Sun's violence. How much is shown? Does the movie still make an impact without lots of violence or blood? What makes something "thrilling"?
How closely do you suppose the movie sticks to its true story? Does that matter? Why or why not? Why might filmmakers alter the truth when making a fact-based movie?
How does the movie demonstrate teamwork?
How does real-life history enter into this story? What was happening in the world in January 1942? How did these men get by without technology or the Internet?
- In theaters: January 23, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: May 5, 2015
- Cast: Tom Felton, Garret Dillahunt, Jake Abel
- Director: Brian Falk
- Studio: Goldcrest Films
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Friendship, History
- Run time: 100 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: thematic material involving peril and hardships, and for language
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.