Stratton

Movie review by
Michael Ordona, Common Sense Media
Stratton Movie Poster Image
Violence, strong language in unimpressive action flick.
  • R
  • 2018
  • 94 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

You could argue that the takeaway is that it's bad to use chemical weapons on lots of people. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

The good guys (except one) are genuinely good. One is a woman of Asian descent; their leader is a woman with lots of experience. Unfortunately, none of the characters are crafted well enough to be believable or make significant emotional or intellectual impact. And the heroes supposedly show "grit" and "passion," but they do it by breaking the rules in stupid ways that would get people killed and aren't punished for it. The bad guys, meanwhile, are generically evil with no motivations beyond revenge or assumed maliciousness. 

Violence

Plenty of action-movie violence without lasting emotional impact: Many gunfights with automatic weapons, some execution-style killings, brief fistfights, car chases. People are blown up, but it's not shown on-screen. The most graphic instance of violence is a character committing suicide with a pistol.

Sex
Language

Occasional use of words including "s--t," "bulls--t," "f--king," etc.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some drinking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Stratton is an action movie based on Duncan Falconer's books about a British special agent (Dominic Cooper of TV's Preacher). It has plenty of action-movie violence and cursing ("s--t," "f--k," and more), but there's nothing too extreme. It's less graphic than, say, an Expendables movie. Expect shoot-outs, car chases, some fistfighting, and explosions, as well as a scene in which a character commits suicide with a gun. There's also some drinking. Connie Nielsen, Tom Felton, and Thomas Kretschmann co-star.

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What's the story?

In STRATTON, British Special Boat Service (SBS) operative John Stratton (Dominic Cooper) and a Navy SEAL named Hank (Austin Stowell) pursue a bad guy (Thomas Kretschmann) who's in possession of chemical weapons. Stratton is aided by his boss, Sumner (Connie Nielsen), and team members (including characters played by Tom Felton of the Harry Potter franchise and Gemma Chan). The film is based on the books by "Duncan Falconer," which is the pseudonym of a writer who's reportedly a former member of the SBS.

Is it any good?

It's hard to imagine how this unimpressive action film would have been greenlit if it hadn't been based on a book series. Most Americans have likely never heard of the "John Stratton" novels, but they supposedly offer grittier, more realistic special-operative fiction than, say, James Bond. But the movie feels rooted in nothing but other similarly themed films. There's very little actual "character" to Stratton himself: He walks around looking serious, and we're told he's "a highly effective operative [who doesn't] have a reputation for respecting authority or the chain of command." (Yes, it's that kind of script.) We also meet Stratton's father figure, a straight-up squandered Derek Jacobi playing a fisherman who apparently only exists on his boat. Other than that, Stratton runs around unconvincingly firing weapons and not calling for backup. Cooper made his name in stage adaptations such as The History Boys and Mamma Mia and is now on AMC's Preacher, but nothing about his physicality or demeanor here says "highly trained military operative." 

The setups and set pieces feel rote. People don't react the way you might expect. Imagine you were a bad guy meeting an even more dangerous bad guy in your home, and your contact reveals that the place is bugged. In Stratton, the response is ... no response. It's as if the big bad guy was criticizing the lesser bad guy's taste in wallpaper. The good guys murder helpless suspects, even blowing one up after establishing that he's a loving husband and father. Streets are conveniently empty for dull car chases, assembled so as to remove any tension. There's little rhyme or reason to the many shoot-outs. The big bad guy's evil plans are even spelled out in a letter that he sends, supposedly in secret, to someone at MI6. The stunts are unspectacular and, when mixed with bland dialogue and faceless characters, add up to a lot of nothing. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about whether there's context for all of the action and violence in Stratton. Are the characters' motivations clear? Is the violence necessary to the story? Do movies like this make violence appear to have a real impact on peoples' lives? Characters die, but do their deaths have an emotional impact?

  • Do the team's actions seem well-thought-out? Why do you think there are only ever two armed operatives at the confrontations?

  • Did you believe the characters' motivations? Did you believe they were heavily trained and experienced military operatives? 

  • If you've read the books the movie was based on, which do you prefer? Why?

Movie details

For kids who love action and thrills

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