Parents' Guide to

The Drummer

By Brian Costello, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 15+

Drama about war veterans has violence, suicide, language.

Movie NR 2021 99 minutes
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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.

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