Silk Road

Movie review by
Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media
Silk Road Movie Poster Image
Drama about dark-web marketplace has drugs, language.
  • R
  • 2021
  • 112 minutes

Parents say

age 18+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

No reviews yetAdd your rating

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Crime doesn't pay, even if you've talked yourself into believing that your illegal activities are for the betterment of society. And engaging in illegal activities -- even if you feel the law is unjust -- is a slippery slope.

Positive Role Models

No clearly positive role models here, though diverse supporting characters serve as the voice of reason, to some degree.

Violence

A drug dealer is roughed up. Intent to kill on a couple of occasions. 

Sex

A married couple kisses. A couple wakes up together in bed; no nudity, but sex is implied.

Language

Very strong language throughout: "a--holes," "bitch," "bulls--t," "d--k," "dumbass," "idiot," "nuts," "s--t," and many uses of "f--k." Black man says the "N" word. Character is made fun of for using the slurs "retarded" and "mongoloid."

Consumerism

Brands seen incidentally, particularly alcohol.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drugs, as products. are discussed and seen throughout film, mostly in a nonjudgmental way. Supporting character is shown using a bong. Frequent drinking and smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Silk Road is a drama about the creation -- and takedown -- of the titular anonymous online drug marketplace. Silk Road's 27-year-old founder, Ross Ulbricht (Nick Robinson), is depicted as a philosophical political thinker who strongly believes that making drugs illegal is an un-American obstruction of freedom. But most parents/caregivers are more likely to hope that teens will take away the message that engaging in illegal activities can be a slippery slope. While the movie is all about selling drugs, and substances of all kinds are shown and discussed, there's only one instance of someone actually using: A DEA informant gets high with a bong. The DEA agent (Jason Clarke) who's pursing Ulbricht is a former user whom viewers meet after a difficult stint in rehab, so the implication is that drug use can lead to a negative, life-altering outcome. Characters also drink, smoke, and use tons of foul language (especially "f--k") throughout. Sex is implied between two characters, but nothing more graphic than kissing is shown.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byElizabeth_Beth February 19, 2021
Adult Written byHarvey J February 19, 2021

Terrible

Don't bother. The trailer was somewhat promising but the movie itself is nothing but disappointment. Not what I was expecting at all.

Not the true story... Continue reading

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What's the story?

In 2010, libertarian Ross Ulbricht (Nick Robinson) created the startup website SILK ROAD to sell drugs on the dark web. When disgraced DEA agent Rick Bowden (Jason Clarke) is assigned to bring Ulbricht down, the two find their fates unexpectedly intertwined. 

Is it any good?

Solid actors deliver substandard performances in this crime drama that's executed like a made-for-TV movie from the '90s -- but the cautionary true story is absolutely astonishing. It's a fascinating example of psychology in real life. Ulbricht is depicted as a kid who always had big ideas but never saw them through to the end. He's a little lost, trying to find his path. As Silk Road tells it, his father chided him for his lack of follow-through. Eventually, emboldened by his libertarian political outlook, Ulbricht comes up with the big idea to start an Amazon-like marketplace for illegal products and services. He's the type of person who talks everyone's ear off about how Americans' liberty and freedom are being infringed upon by the U.S. government, a perspective that may appeal to certain viewers (including teens). His posturing as a deep thinker attracts both friends and a girlfriend (Alexandra Shipp), who mostly stick with him despite their moral objections. 

Ulbricht is made out to be someone who's somewhat deserving of viewers' compassion, ordering hits on potential enemies out of fear and feeling really, really bad about it. This approach isn't compatible with the Rolling Stone article the movie is adapted from, and the film seems to deviate even further when it comes to the story about fictionalized DEA agent Bowden. That matters, because Bowden's story is presented on equal terms with Ulbricht's -- and the psychology of his seems grittier and, to some degree, more clichéd. He's a washed-up detective who's this close to retirement but solves the case by making risky choices in the face of disrespect from colleagues. Some moments also veer into thriller territory, possibly leaving audiences yelling at the screen, "DON'T DO IT!"  The question ultimately becomes: Will teens see Silk Road as a lesson to stay off life's slippery slopes, or will they be inspired by Ulbricht's big-money success, and think, "If it were me, I wouldn't get caught"?

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Silk Road portrays both Ulbricht and the DEA agent pursuing him. Does the movie want viewers to empathize with, feel compassion for, or condemn them? Do you think any of their illegal acts are justified?

  • Compare Ulbricht's outlook on narcotics sales and use with that of the film itself. Are drugs glamorized or made to appear acceptable? 

  • What's the power of making a film that begins with the words "based on a true story"? Why do you think films based on real events have become so popular? Why might filmmakers choose to alter the facts when making a movie?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love crime thrillers

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