A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Saints and Soldiers is a 2003 low-budget World War II-themed movie about five Allied soldiers trapped deep behind enemy lines who need to get important information back to their armies that could save thousands of soldiers from an enemy attack. There is frequent battle violence -- dead bodies and blood, as well as a graphic scene in which one of the main characters is shown getting a bullet removed from his thigh. In a flashback scene, a soldier recounts throwing a grenade into a bombed-out church and accidentally causing the deaths of two women and six kids. There is cigarette smoking and the occasional mild profanity ("hell" and "damn"). Overall, fans of World War II movies should enjoy this film inspired by the true story of what transpired in the wake of the Malmedy massacre and the courage, valor, and camaraderie that develops among these four surviving soldiers.
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What's the story?
In the immediate aftermath of the Malmedy massacre, four American soldiers escape and try to figure out a way to get out of being deep behind enemy lines. One soldier nicknamed "Deacon" is shell-shocked after accidentally throwing a grenade into a bombed-out church where two women and six kids were hiding, and the other soldiers try to keep him from losing his mind. As they start trying to find their way back to the Allied side of France, they come across a British paratrooper named Winley. Winley insists that they need to get back to friendly forces as soon as possible, because he has reports of a German army attack that could kill thousands of Allied soldiers. Together, the five soldiers face incredible difficulties as they fight the winter, German soldiers, and themselves as they try to get along and survive and get valuable information to Allied commanders.
Is it any good?
All in all, SAINTS AND SOLDIERS proves that a great story with a low budget is always better than a lousy story with a big budget. The acting is strong, and the production is solid. Although the story occasionally veers dangerously close to wartime clichés -- the soldier who just wants to "kill some Krauts," the snobby British soldier, one-liners riffing on the theme of "war is hell" -- war, unlike so many other movies, is not glorified or glamorized here. The bullets fired don't care if the characters are heroes or not. The characters do break out of their archetypes into three dimensions, and even the enemy and the civilians emerge as human.
Although it's certainly a movie more likely to be enjoyed by fans of World War II-set films, the movie's themes of faith, valor, and camaraderie should have appeal even if war movies aren't a family's favorite. It isn't the greatest war film ever made, but it's thoughtful and engaging on its own terms.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about World War II movies. Why do you think there's such an enduring appeal to movies set during World War II?
How is the violence of war conveyed in this movie? Is it too graphic or not graphic enough, since this is intended to be a depiction of warfare?
Do you think it would have mattered to the overall story if the movie had a larger budget? Why, or why not?
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