A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Paskal is a 2018 Malaysian action movie about a group of soldiers in the Royal Malaysian Navy Special Forces fighting modern-day pirates on a vessel and an oil rig. Expect a lot of action-movie and war violence comparable to American action war movies of the 1980s. Characters fight with assault rifles, machine guns, guns, knives, punches, kicks, and headbutts. One of the characters dies by jumping on a live grenade to save the lives of others. A character's leg gets blown off by a grenade. Snipers kill antagonists, shooting them in the head. Some blood is shown. Cigarette smoking is shown. Overall, families may want to discuss whether the movie glamorizes war and violence or shows the sacrifices, honor, and bravery of soldiers who are willing to put their lives on the line defending their country.
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What's the story?
Arman Anwar is a lieutenant commander in the Royal Malaysian Navy Special Forces (PASKAL). After Arman and his squad rescue a tanker hijacked by pirates in the Gulf of Aden, he's on the verge of emailing his resignation to his commanding officer. He wants to resign in part to take care of his ailing mother, who doesn't fully support his life as an elite soldier, and because Arman's father died in battle as a member of PASKAL. He also continues to mourn the loss of his friend Joshua, who was killed when they were on a peacekeeping mission as UN envoys in Angola. But when Rudi, a ruthless leader of a band of pirates, teams up with Jeb, a former PASKAL operative who is now a gun-for-hire, and hijacks an oil rig for a hefty ransom, Arman must reunite with his fellow PASKAL squad members to stop Rudi and Jeb once and for all.
Is it any good?
For better or worse, this film is reminiscent of the American war movies that were big when Ronald Reagan was president. Heroism, bravery, and valor win the day, but so do endless firefights, jingoistic machismo, and headbutts. There's a story happening between the action sequences, but it's so stock and trite, it's easy to pay more attention to the lengthy battles between the Special Forces and the ragtag evil pirates. An underlying theme is supposed to be about what the characters are faced with as individuals who choose to undergo the expected grueling training and the subsequent negative effect on their homelives, but it's hard to feel much emotional attachment when, for instance, one of the Special Forces operatives only stands out from the others because he is "a reader" -- he wears glasses and is shown reading a dogeared paperback of Pensées by (wait for it) Pascal. The other secondary characters are also cut from a similar "stock."
Nonetheless, for fans of the action/war genre, there are plenty of entertaining scenes, exciting chases, and interesting uses of military hardware. There's a clear attempt at a deeper meaning, but like most action movies, the themes in Paskal are easily lost in the turbulence of battle. The result is derivative bombast and worn out clichés.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about war movies. How does Paskal compare to other war movies you've seen?
Does this movie glamorize war and violence, or does it try to convey the heroism of soldiers who put their lives on the line defending their country?
How does the movie portray the problem of piracy in international waters?
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