A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Movie explores struggles and limits of antiwar activism. Ideals of serving one's country or a greater cause versus what's best for individuals -- in this case, soldiers returning from Iraq in 2008 who struggle with PTSD and face another year of deployment.
Positive Role Models
Mark Walker is an idealistic lawyer, Vietnam veteran, and peace activist who works to help soldiers returning from Iraq in 2008 obtain honorable discharges for their service, despite circumstances in which PTSD, other struggles led them to going AWOL, drunk-driving incidents, addiction. Some soldiers he represents bravely stand up to a military and government that failed them -- as their experiences of sexual assault and mental, physical, emotional trauma are ignored or glossed over by those in power.
Characters of all races and backgrounds. Female soldier discusses sexual harassment and assault she suffered while deployed in Iraq, when it was still permissible to simply send the offending soldier somewhere else.
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Violence & Scariness
Character commits suicide by putting a gun to his chin; gunshot heard, then news report on his suicide, how he killed his wife shortly before that. Attempted suicide: veteran standing on bridge looking down over water below. Talk of incidents involving sexual harassment and assault: a female solider waking up to find male soldier standing over her with his penis out, a male superior officer calling a gay soldier a "p---y" before moving directly behind him while pretending to have sex with him. Returning soldiers struggle with PTSD and suffer hallucinations and flashbacks related to their traumatic memories.
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Strong language throughout. "F--k" often used. Also "motherf----r," "p---y," "bulls--t," "s--t," "a--hole," "d--k," "piss," "goddamn," "hell."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Drinking in bars: beer and shots. Characters shown hung over after night of heavy drinking. Talk of addiction to prescription medication.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Drummer is an indie drama in which a Vietnam veteran working as a lawyer struggles to help Iraq War veterans struggling with PTSD. In a climactic scene, one of the lead characters commits suicide by pointing a gun below his chin. It's not shown, but that's followed by a gunshot and a news report in the next scene about how the man killed himself and his wife. The film also features attempted suicide, as a character stands on a bridge overlooking the water below. There's talk of sexual harassment and assault, including an instance of a female soldier waking up to find the male soldier who had been harassing her standing over her with his penis out. Drinking in bars involves shots and beer. Characters are shown hung over after a night of heavy drinking. There's talk of veterans returning home from the war and getting pulled over for drunk driving. Strong language throughout includes "f--k" and "motherf----r." The lead character, played by actor and activist Danny Glover, is a committed antiwar activist, and the movie takes an unflinching look at the challenges in helping individual veterans with their problems. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This is a powerful, nuanced, provocative indie drama. The Drummer is a devastating story about frayed ideals and shattered illusions. It's set in an upstate New York military town in 2008 during "the surge" of troops sent to Iraq by the George W. Bush Administration as the public was turning against the Iraq War and news of degrading human rights abuses and war crimes were continuing to surface. The Drummer's main character is Mark Walker, a lawyer who represents Iraq War veterans suffering PTSD and seeking honorable discharges (or just a way to not be forced to serve yet another tour of duty) in spite of the crimes they've committed since returning home, including going AWOL and drunk driving. Walker, a Vietnam veteran with war traumas of his own, is masterfully played by Danny Glover, who, paired with the strength of the screenplay, reveals the struggle of a man who wants to evolve with the times and find a way to make the antiwar movement as relevant as it was during Vietnam, and who struggles with creating this ideal while also trying to do his job by serving the immediate needs of the veterans he represents.
The mix of weariness and hope in Glover's character is what works best in The Drummer, and does more than anything else in the movie to effectively capture the mood of 2008 among so many Americans. Glover's younger co-stars, Sam Underwood and Prema Cruz, also deliver incredible performances, both playing damaged Iraq War veterans struggling to pick up the pieces as they face bureaucratic indifference and orders to report for another tour of duty, even as they struggle to maintain their sanity. You'll agree or disagree with what the movie is saying, and there really isn't any in-between viewpoint, but no matter: The Drummer should provoke spirited discussion about war, antiwar, and the treatment of veterans.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.