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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Command is a disaster thriller based on the true story of a Russian nuclear submarine accident. Even those familiar with the Kursk accident will be on the edge of their seat, hoping some of the soldiers can be saved from their dire situation -- and for the unfamiliar, the end is devastating. Seismic, fiery explosions blast people across the screen, and lifeless bodies are scattered about. But, remarkably, the violence isn't bloody or graphic. While the story certainly stirs up outrage at Russian leaders (although mentions of President Vladimir Putin were scrubbed), it creates positive, empathetic feelings for the Russian working class. Expect some swearing ("s--t," "hell"), smoking, and drinking. A married couple is seen in a post-sex, under-the-sheets snuggle. The sailors are in deep distress, but the positive takeaway is that a key to survival is keeping hope alive -- even in a hopeless situation. Colin Firth and Matthias Schoenaerts co-star.
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What's the story?
THE COMMAND takes place in August 2000, when explosions on the Russian nuclear submarine K-141 Kursk cause it to sink to the bottom of the Barents Sea. As the 23 survivors -- led by Mikhail Averin (Matthias Schoenaerts) -- slowly run out of oxygen, the Russian government continues to refuse foreign aid, even when British Navy officer David Russell (Colin Firth) claims they have all of the necessary tools to carry out the risky rescue mission. As time ticks down, the tension between politics and survival instincts grows.
Is it any good?
Military films tend to cover moments of courage under fire that conclude with rousing victory, which makes this tragic depiction feel all the more gripping, vital, and necessary. In the case of the Kursk, the incident is shocking because it was all so avoidable. The smallest bit of give by the Northern Fleet's superiors could have saved lives. Drama and suspense build moment by moment, and all seems lost when suddenly a ray of hope shines. So much hope, though, that it's crushing when the film has no Hollywood ending, but a conclusion as cold and harsh as Siberia.
It would be easy for The Command to slip into politics (*cough cough* Putin), but it chooses to instead focus on what went wrong, the bravery of the explosion's initial survivors, and the families who wouldn't be silenced. American viewers get the opportunity to feel a connection with the Russian people by seeing them how we see ourselves: loving, hardworking, and family oriented. That said, in some cases the lack of a Russian accent is distracting; for instance, viewers have to forcibly remind themselves that Max Von Sydow is playing a Russian, rather than one of the Brits. The film is aimed at adults, but the point of view continually shifts to that of Mikhail's son, Misha (Artemiy Spiridonov, one of the few Russian-born actors), who silently observes the injustice delivered by untrustworthy military leaders. Fittingly, it's the child who gets the last word, with director Thomas Vinterberg symbolically passing the torch to the next generation as an encouragement that they can choose to put people's needs over politics.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what makes someone a good leader. What examples of leadership do you see in Mikhail? What do the British commodore and the Russian admiral do to try to save the Russian sailors? Compare their leadership style to the way the commander of the Northern Fleet handled the crisis.
How did the movie's violent scenes affect you? Do all types of media violence have the same impact?
The names of the Russians were changed in the movie, and the real-life Russian president who actually met with the families isn't even mentioned, yet the film does name the real-life British commander, David Russell. Why do you think the filmmakers chose to fictionalize some of the people involved but not all?
Why do you think the filmmaker chose to begin and end with, and frequently cut to, Misha, the son of one of the submariners? What is the filmmaker trying to say?
- In theaters: June 21, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: August 6, 2019
- Cast: Colin Firth, Matthias Schoenaerts, Lea Seydoux
- Director: Thomas Vinterberg
- Studio: STX Entertainment
- Genre: Thriller
- Topics: History
- Character strengths: Courage, Perseverance
- Run time: 117 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some intense disaster-related peril and disturbing images, and for brief strong language
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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