Movie review by
Monique Jones, Common Sense Media
Recon Movie Poster Image
Violent WWII drama makes existential plea against war.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 95 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Recon focuses on the futility of war and how compassion is better for solving problems than brute force. The film stems from a philosophy that war is meaningless and instead wants to show how important peace is for humanity. Examples of teamwork in the face of extreme adversity, involving the team putting aside differences in order to try to keep one another alive. 

Positive Role Models

Marson is a soldier who feels guilt and remorse for his actions. He tries to do the right thing in inhuman circumstances. Joyner and Asch offer help to their team at a perilous cost to their lives.


Several scenes of shooting, often at point-blank range. A landmine explodes on one of the team members, blowing half of his body away. A group member compulsively scratches at some kind of rash as a form of self-harm. Several dead bodies are shown. A character cuts open a blister on his foot with a knife.


Sexual humor/language.


Swear words include "f--k," "f---ing", "f---er," "f---ed," "motherf---er," "s--t", "bulls--t," "son of a bitch," "whore," "bloody," "hell." Slurs for Germans and Jewish people, including "Krauts," "Yid," "the Hun," "Jerry," and "fascist pig." Exclamatory use of "Jesus Christ." 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Cigarette smoking. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Recon is a World War II drama/action film about four soldiers stationed in Italy who are sent on a dangerous reconnaissance mission, led by an elderly Italian villager. As is the case with many war films, Recon has scenes of intense violence, including point-blank shootings, a landmine blowing up (and blowing away half of someone's body), and other markers of death. Self-harm is also a small element of the film, with a soldier compulsively digging into some kind of rash. Expect lots of swearing and other strong language, including "f--k," "s--t," "Jesus Christ," and slurs for Jewish and German people. Characters smoke cigarettes. The film can teach viewers about overcoming perceived differences to work meaningfully as a team. It also has themes of compassion and focuses on spreading a pacifist message against war. Alexander Ludwig, RJ Fetherstonhaugh, Sam Keeley, and Chris Brochu star.

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What's the story?

In RECON, director Robert David Port attempts to give viewers a lesson in existentialism with a story based on the true account of World War II veteran Robert Bausch. Alexander Ludwig stars as the film's approximation of Bausch, Robert Marson. Marson leads a small team of soldiers -- Heisman (RJ Fetherstonhaugh), Joyner (Sam Keeley), and Asch (Chris Brochu) -- on a dangerous reconnaissance mission in the Italian countryside at the orders of their murderous sergeant. The team is led by an Italian native, an old man named Angelo (Franco Nero). But the team feels like their mission is cursed; aside from it seeming like a suicide mission, they feel they should have reported their sergeant for killing an innocent German woman. The mission, and the soldiers' collective guilt, takes its toll on them as they continue a mission they feel will be the end of them. Along the way, the soldiers, especially Marson, start to suffer from the existential and psychological pressures war has placed on them. 

Is it any good?

Recon will probably have the most appeal for war buffs. While it's a passable film about World War II, where it excels in its focus on how the theater of war places a high cost on the soldiers fighting for their countries. The film's heart is Marson; outwardly, he seems to suffer the most, with flashes of the horrors he's seen affecting both his emotions and his stability. Keeley's Joyner is also visibly affected: When he gets anxious or nervous, he scratches at a rash that won't heal. The habit becomes more and more like self-harm; the more anxious he gets, the more he scratches. And the story's focus on mental health doesn't just include the American soldiers at the center of the film. It also extends to those caught in the crossfire, such as Angelo, himself a former soldier who's witnessed the deaths of his family and his village.

Where the film falls flat is in its dialogue and characterization. Films like Recon usually show a team coming together amid their differences to accomplish a goal. Here, however, the group seems to be at one another's throats for most of their mission, which quickly gets grating. They do eventually put their petty fights on the backburner, but only when someone is near death. While these moments do show us that these men can work as a team, moments of teamwork that aren't catalyzed by mortal danger are rare. The dialogue also doesn't support viewers liking most of these characters -- amid all the cursing and insults, it's hard to truly get to know these characters and their motivations, which makes the viewing experience feel lacking. Despite this, Recon does leave a lasting impression of why war can be seen as an unhealthy practice for humanity and our collective psyche. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the impact of war. How does war affect both soldiers and their families? How is war typically portrayed in the media? How does Recon compare?

  • How does the movie promote compassion over violence as a means of dealing with conflict? What steps can you take to encourage meaningful dialogue to resolve conflicts?

  • How do the characters demonstrate teamwork? Why is that an important character strength?

  • What does "peace" mean to you? What are ways you can foster peace in your life?

  • What's the impact of media violence on kids?

Movie details

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