Bilal: A New Breed of Hero

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Bilal: A New Breed of Hero Movie Poster Image
Powerful but violent story of slave's battle for freedom.
  • PG-13
  • 2018
  • 105 minutes

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 7+
Based on 1 review

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Many positive messages overtly stated by Bilal's mother, who speaks in adages and teaches him about the meaning of being a great man (living without chains, being free of corruption, speaking the truth, defending others, not letting anger and fear rule your actions). The movie also encourages/promotes courage, equality, the value of faith, and the importance of freedom for all.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Bilal's mother is loving, encouraging, and self-sacrificing. After her death, her words continue to guide Bilal toward truth and freedom. Bilal is a skilled, talented, occasionally hot-headed and impulsive young boy and teen; later in life he learns the ways that faith and mentorship can free him -- perhaps not literally, but in his spirit. Bilal and his sister, Ghufaira, love and take care of each other, always. The landowners and merchants who want to free the slaves and stop the pagan rulers are vocal believers in equality.

Violence

Violent, disturbing scenes throughout include children and adults being kidnapped and placed into slavery; slave trading (with imprisonment until slaves are sold); the mocking, ridicule, and torment of a slave, including the sounds of a slave being whipped and beaten; a master having his slaves tortured (including a public punishment in which a man is nearly put to death with a giant stone laid on his chest to crush him); rebellion against an oppressive regime; battles with armed cavalry, archers, and swordsmen; and fairly close-up shots of characters dying, being stabbed, etc. A father slaps and pushes his son.

Sex
Language

Occasional use of words like "idiot" and "stupid" and the derogatory use of the word "slave."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Slave owners drink alcohol at parties and meals.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Bilal: A New Breed of Hero is a historical adventure based on the true story of Bilal ibn Rabah (voiced by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), an Abyssinian slave turned Middle Eastern revolutionary who was a prominent figure in ancient Islamic history. Although it's animated, it's pretty intense, with lots of violent action. There are scenes of torture, kidnapping, slave trading and abuse, war, armed battle, and even some blood -- most of it at the hands of the slave owners who rule the area for most of the movie. The language, on the other hand, is tame except for the occasional use of "idiot," "stupid," and the derogatory use of the word "slave." Although the movie is about one of the earliest converts to Islam, there's no actual mention of religion in the film, which focuses on Bilal's journey from slave to warrior for equality. But older moviegoers may recognize Mecca's Kaaba, as well as the crescent moon symbol and the description of the monotheistic faith and philosophy that Bilal's mentors follow. Families who watch the film together will have plenty to discuss about the story's historical, faith-based, and inclusive aspects, as well as its messages about courage, equality, the value of faith, and the importance of freedom for all.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 7 and 10 year old Written byHa L. February 5, 2018

Full of events and details

It is full of details and events. I loved how it was made but it needs full attention to catch it all. My 10 years old enjoyed specially that he knows the real... Continue reading
Adult Written byNaiyir E. February 8, 2018

Great men are those who decide their own destiny

Lots of great messages and lessons which are great ot be taught at a young age
Teen, 14 years old Written byCleverHacker February 7, 2018

Awesome movie

It is an awesome movie I don't think it has as much violence as other people say. there is only one scene with blood. btw my name is also Bilal

What's the story?

BILAL: A NEW BREED OF HERO is based on the true story of Bilal ibn Rabah (voiced by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as an adult), a legendary historical figure in Islam who was the first muezzin -- a person who calls people to prayer -- in Mecca. Of Abyssinian descent, young Bilal (Andre Robinson) and his younger sister, Ghufaira (China Anne McClain), are captured and sold into slavery to a polytheistic, pagan landowner and merchant named Umayya (Ian McShane) in a faraway land in the seventh century. As Bilal becomes a teen (Jacob Latimore), he has a few tense confrontations with Umayya's son Safwan (Sage Ryan), who never fails to remind Bilal of his lowly place. As an adult, Bilal, who's known for his beautiful voice, befriends prominent men who've met Muhammad and follow his belief in one god, equality, and overthrowing the polytheists. Eventually, Bilal escapes his bonds (though not before being tortured) and joins a group planning to resist the greedy Umayya and his cohorts and turn the area (now Saudi Arabia) into a free land.

Is it any good?

Polished computer-generated animation and a fascinating story make this surprisingly intense and violent Middle Eastern drama best for history-loving tweens and teens. Because the words "Islam" and "Muslim" are never mentioned in Bilal: A New Breed of Hero, Muslim families and those with knowledge of the roots of Islam will understand the significance of the movie on a deeper level than those with a less-direct connection to the story. But there's an undeniably universal appeal to Bilal's transformation from slave into revolutionary, even if the plot might confuse audiences who are completely unaware of the story's context or setting. Many geography-challenged viewers may find themselves having to pull out an atlas -- but that's actually a point in the movie's favor. And those unfamiliar with the Kaaba (Islam's most sacred site) may not recognize Mecca, but that's yet another educational aspect of the movie.

The animation is incredibly realistic, giving the battle sequences that much more impact. On the downside, it's occasionally difficult to distinguish between characters of similar age and overall appearance, until their names are said aloud. Despite some missteps -- the violence might be too much for younger viewers, the pacing is uneven, and, at 107 minutes, it's slightly overlong -- Bilal is interesting enough to entice audiences to learn more about the story after the credits roll.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the compelling nature of rebellions that free slaves or the oppressed. What makes them such a fascinating topic for movies, TV shows, and books? How does Bilal: A New Breed of Hero compare to other stories that deal with similar topics?

  • What roles does violence play in the movie? Is the impact of animated violence different than that of live-action violence?

  • Is Bilal a role model? How does he show courage? What other character strengths does he display?

  • Who do you think the movie's target audience is? Do you need to be familiar with ancient Islamic or Middle Eastern history to enjoy the story?

  • Does the movie's historical basis interest you? What do you want to learn more about?

Movie details

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