A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Numbers Station is a thriller in which one of the main characters is a trained killer who shoots and kills many people. But he also saves the other main character, performing emergency medical procedures on her (blood is shown). There are also some explosions, including a huge one during the film's climax. Language is fairly strong, with about a dozen uses of "f--k" and a few uses of "s--t." The two main characters have a subtle romantic tension, but there's no kissing, innuendo, or sex. A major character and a minor one both claim to have drinking problems, and both are seen drinking. On the plus side, teens may learn a little something about the "numbers stations" that were used to transmit coded information during WWII, and in the years since.
What's the story?
After a particularly awful job in which a girl needlessly dies, secret agent/trained killer Emerson (John Cusack) gets a new assignment. He's to watch over Katherine (Malin Akerman), an expert who works in a "numbers station," transmitting code. One day, the station is breached, and a dangerous code has been sent. Only Katherine can stop it, but time is running short. They're locked in the bunker-like station, and the bad guys are drilling through. To make matters worse, Emerson gets the order to kill Katherine. Can he keep his head together long enough to save the day?
Is it any good?
THE NUMBERS STATION feels somewhat small-time, as if not all that much is at stake. Moreover, the cinematography is on the dark side and often difficult to see clearly. But these things also contribute toward it being a perfect kind of low-key, late-night movie. Cusack and Akerman help a great deal, taking their slightly underwritten characters and giving them an inner life; their banter reveals a bit about who they are (it also helps that Cusack played a tormented killer much like this one in Grosse Pointe Blank).
Danish director Kasper Barfoed, who makes his English-language debut here, makes fine use of the movie's tight constraints, painting it in concrete hallways, electrical panels, and glowing computer screens. Even if things are sometimes a bit hard to follow, it at least appears that the director and the characters know what's going on. It's easy to go with the flow.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about The Numbers Station's violence. Was it necessary for the main character to shoot and kill so many people? What makes him sympathetic to audiences?
What did you learn about "numbers stations" from this movie? Could there have been more information in it that would have helped the story?
How does the movie approach drinking?
- In theaters: April 26, 2013
- On DVD or streaming: May 28, 2013
- Cast: John Cusack, Liam Cunningham, Malin Akerman
- Director: Kasper Barfoed
- Studio: Image Entertainment
- Genre: Thriller
- Topics: History
- Run time: 89 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: violence and language
- Last updated: March 13, 2020
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