Life on the Line

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Life on the Line Movie Poster Image
Earnest but cliché-filled drama has violence, swearing.
  • R
  • 2016
  • 97 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Aims to pay tribute to people who risk their lives in dangerous situations to keep everyone safe and make sure everyone has power. At the end, information is offered on an organization called Fallen Linemen, which helps out the families of men who died on the job.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Beau often acts in a very selfless way and is largely concerned with helping others. He even defuses a potential bar fight in one scene. But he learned these lessons through several failures (shown in flashbacks). Other characters aren't fleshed out enough to be role models.

Violence

Characters are killed. A character is hit by lighting and falls from a height. Brutal car crash, blood on glass. Train crash. General fire and destruction. Guns fired, characters shot and killed. Gory photos of electrocuted linemen. War flashbacks, sounds of war and violence. Parking lot fight, with punching, kicking, head-bashing. Men behave in threatening ways toward women; a man tries to rape a woman.

Sex

Couples kiss.

Language

Use of "motherf----r," uses of "s--t," "ass," "dumbass," "hell," "damn," "goddamn," as well as "Jesus" and "Jesus Christ almighty" (as exclamations).

Consumerism

Harley Davidson motorcycles shown/mentioned.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A secondary character is an alcoholic and is shown drinking, drunk, hiding bottles, etc. Characters frequently drink beer, wine, and whisky in bars or at home.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Life on the Line is a drama starring John Travolta about electrical linemen in Texas. It's very earnest and well-meaning, but it's also full of cliches and soap-opera twists and isn't for every taste. Plus, the violence is strong, with guns and shooting, attempted rape, deaths, fighting, crashes, and general destruction. Language is also fairly salty, with uses of "motherf----r," "s--t," and more. One character is an alcoholic who's shown drinking, drunk, hiding bottles, etc.; other characters are frequently shown drinking in bars or at home. Characters kiss.

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What's the story?

In LIFE ON THE LINE, a group of Texas men work the dangerous job of maintaining the electrical grid. One rainy night, Beau (John Travolta) sees his brother die in a terrible accident, and he takes on the task of raising his young niece, Bailey. Years later, Bailey (Kate Bosworth) is grown up and preparing to head for college. Bailey's ex-boyfriend, Duncan (Devon Sawa), is hired on the line crew for a huge retrofit, which must be completed before a looming deadline -- and before a massive storm hits. Beau doesn't trust Duncan and doesn't think he's good for Bailey. Meanwhile, another lineman (Ryan Robbins), a war veteran with untreated PTSD, seems to be increasingly unstable, and a local man with a crush on Bailey starts stalking her. Can the crew survive this tense time?

Is it any good?

The filmmakers behind this earnest, heartfelt drama truly want to honor the brave men who do this job, but the movie is packed with cliches and doesn't really grasp the details of hard work. The screenplay relies on soap opera mechanics, with characters behaving in certain specific, rigid ways designed to move the plot forward; they're never allowed to emerge as characters. Not to mention that the plot itself is so weary and shopworn that it's not hard to guess what's coming as the movie slogs forward.

And, in all this, the point of the lineman -- understanding his work -- is more or less lost; we see images of men climbing poles and attaching clamps to things, but that's about it. Underneath yet another batch of bizarre facial hair, Travolta manages to find some kind of weary, inner life to his character. And in a small role as an alcoholic, Sharon Stone proves she still has onscreen electricity. But otherwise, Life on the Line is as dead as a downed power line.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Life on the Line's violence. How much of it is necessary to tell the story? Which scenes are shocking? Why?

  • How does the movie portray drinking and alcoholism? Does it judge the alcoholic character?

  • What other movies about specific jobs can you think of? How does this one compare to them?

Movie details

For kids who love dramas

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