The Numbers Station

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
The Numbers Station Movie Poster Image
Effective (if violent) thriller offers mini history lesson.
  • R
  • 2013
  • 89 minutes

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Kids say

age 8+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The cynical main character eventually learns to give up on his beliefs and training in order to open himself up to another person. Also, audiences can learn a little about "numbers stations" and the way they broadcasted coded transmissions during WWII (and, apparently still do).

Positive Role Models & Representations

Both of the main characters are serving their country, but they either perform deeds that they don't understand (like sending secret codes), or distasteful and illegal ones (like murder). Ultimately, they decide that their humanity is more important than their job.


The main character is a trained killer, and he shoots and kills several men over the course of the film. Bad guys shoot back at him and blow up a car. In a fantasy sequence, the main character envisions killing the heroine of the movie. In real life, he fixes her wounds, pulls a hunk of shrapnel from her leg, and stitches her leg up. Blood is shown. There's a huge explosion at the climax.


Some minor romantic tension between the two main characters; by the end, it appears that they're going to be a couple, but there's no kissing, innuendo, or sex of any kind. In an early scene, a man touches a woman's back, indicating that they're a couple.


Language is fairly infrequent but includes about a dozen uses of "f--k" and a couple of uses of "s--t." "Bastard," "ass," "Jesus Christ" (as an exclamation) and "oh my God" are also used.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The main character claims that he "was a drunk" but that he gave up drinking. Nonetheless, he's seen drinking alone in a hotel room early in the film. A minor character also claims that he hasn't had a drink in three years but drinks a shot of scotch.

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.

User Reviews

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  • Kids say

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Kid, 11 years old July 5, 2013


This movie is HORRIBLE! It's very bad don't watch it. I'm warning you!

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?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love thrills

Themes & Topics

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