Big Sky

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Big Sky Movie Poster Image
Violent, unsurprising thriller lacks tension despite twist.
  • NR
  • 2015
  • 90 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

With the right motivation, people can dig deep to overcome even the most impossible-seeming obstacles, including their most terrifying fears. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Hazel is forced to confront and overcome her greatest fears to save her mom when they're thrust into a life-or-death situation. She struggles but manages to do what's needed to save the day. 

Violence

Two kidnappers leave several people dead or injured after brutally hijacking a van. They execute some of the passengers with close-range shots. A teenage girl is later accosted by a twentysomething man who seems to be high, and they scuffle over a pepper-spray container. Several people end up in a standoff with guns drawn, resulting in some getting shot. A kidnapper starts to fondle the woman he's abducted before his partner makes him stop. 

Sex
Language

Frequent swearing, including "f--k," "s--t," "goddammit," and "queer."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A mentally ill character is repeatedly seen taking medications in a stressful situation, probably more than her usual dose. A man seems to be very high on drugs, speaking nonsensically about the benefits of hallucinogens. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Big Sky is a kidnapping thriller that centers on a mentally ill teen who must face her greatest fear -- the outdoors -- by hiking across the open desert for help after her mom in shot during a violent carjacking. There are executions and several shoot outs that leave bloody corpses, as well as plenty of swearing (including "f--k" and "s--t) and a character who's high, so it's best for older teens and up. 

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What's the story?

Hazel (Bella Thorne) suffers from crippling agoraphobia and is on her way to a treatment center with her mother and several other new patients. Without warning, their van is carjacked, one of the other passengers is abducted, and the kidnappers shoot almost everyone else. Hazel is uninjured, but her mom (Kyra Sedgwick) is badly wounded. Hazel, who's terrified to be outside, must hike across the desert, under the oppressively vast BIG SKY, for help -- even though every single step is an ordeal. 

Is it any good?

Big Sky has a simple premise that could have been interesting, had it been executed well ... but it wasn't. The question of how an agoraphobic girl can overcome her debilitating fears in the open desert to save her dying mom is compelling. But what it needed to work is an actress who can really tap into -- and show -- a deep fear; Thorne, unfortunately, mostly mutters to herself and stares at the sand with a blank look. For a girl who's afraid to leave her bedroom, it seems like her phobia comes and goes, as she trudges across the sand with a determined gait; Hazel seems mostly bored, rather than terrified.

The rest of the film is flawed as well, from the bumbling kidnappers who have no coherent plan, to the drugged-out biker who appears from nowhere in the middle of the desert and then disappears from the film without serving much of a purpose. The pieces simply don't fit together, and viewers aren't given much reason to care how it turns out. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Big Sky's violence. How does it compare to what you might see in a horror movie? Which has the most impact? Why?

  • Do you think the film portrays agoraphobia accurately? How would this condition affect Hazel's life, and her mother's? Did Hazel's ordeal help her overcome her fears?

  • How does this film compare to other kidnapping thrillers?

Movie details

For kids who love thrills

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