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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Hunter Killer is a thriller involving submarines, Navy SEALs, and Russians; it's based on a 2012 novel by George Wallace and Don Keith. The biggest issue is violence: You can expect lots and lots of battle action, with guns and shooting, high-powered missiles and torpedoes, bloody wounds and injuries, and dead bodies. Language is also strong, with many uses of "f--k," "s--t," "son of a bitch," "p---y," and more. On the other hand, sex, substance use, and consumerism aren't issues. The movie starts stiffly and seems like it's going to be another not-too-good Gerard Butler movie, but it eventually begins to work in a passably entertaining way, and it's clear that teamwork is important to the characters and their story.
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What's the story?
In HUNTER KILLER, an American submarine is torpedoed near Russia, and unorthodox, street-smart Captain Joe Glass (Gerard Butler) is called in to investigate. He discovers that a nearby Russian sub has been sabotaged, and he chooses to rescue its captain (Michael Nyqvist) from the ocean floor. Meanwhile, a team of U.S. Navy SEALs uncovers a coup within the Russian government: A rogue general has locked up the president (Alexander Diachenko) and taken over. The SEALs successfully snatch the president, while Glass must trust the Russian captain to help navigate the treacherous waters to get to the rendezvous point. But can the Americans and the loyal Russians trust each other long enough to prevent the bad guys from starting another world war?
Is it any good?
This military thriller starts stiffly, and not everyone seems fully committed, but as the pieces come together, it becomes a passably tense entertainment for fans of huge explosions. Based on a novel by George Wallace and Don Keith and directed by Donovan Marsh, Hunter Killer kicks off with thick, clunky military dialogue and many cookie-cutter scenes, especially the ones that establish Butler as a rebellious outsider (he never went to Annapolis, he's first seen hunting with a bow and arrow, etc.). Actors like Common and Gary Oldman appear uncomfortable at best, and it looks for a while as if Butler forced everyone at gunpoint to help make this movie.
But, surprisingly, Hunter Killer eventually turns into a multi-character piece, with many moving parts; Butler is, happily, not the center of everything. The story allows Marsh to logically cut back and forth to several locations, and the breaks effectively boost the storytelling style; it builds suspense. Best of all, the movie becomes less focused on specific military-type relationships and concentrates instead on simpler, more universal bonds of loyalty and teamwork. Characters seem to behave in the best interests of their comrades, rather than at the service of the plot. The wonderful Linda Cardellini has virtually the only female role, looking tense inside a situation room, and she seems to relish the opportunity. Yet Hunter Killer is also overrun with gunfire and explosions. It's hardly a classic, but it should satisfy a reasonable number of sub thriller fans.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Hunter Killer's violence. How intense is it? Do you think it's intended to be shocking? Scary? Thrilling? How can you tell? How does the movie achieve this effect?
How is teamwork shown in the movie? What's the difference between teamwork and loyalty?
What's the appeal of submarine movies? How does this one compare to others you've seen?
Do you think movies about the military should always show soldiers and servicepeople in a positive light? Why or why not?
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