The Square

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
The Square Movie Poster Image
Unflinching, violent, but excellent docu on Arab Spring.
  • NR
  • 2014
  • 104 minutes

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

Positive Messages

This film shows the power of committed idealism in the face of brutal government oppression. Compassion, perseverance, and courage are major themes.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Several activists are shown speaking out against the brutal dictatorship that ruled Egypt and working together with thousands of others to fight it through words, protest, songs, engaged social media, and digital cameras. The activists demonstrate integrity and teamwork in the face of intense adversity.


Filmed in the heat of the moment of violent antigovernment demonstrations in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, this film features numerous scenes of people rioting against the police and military. Protestors show scars they've received as the result of brutal torture. There are graphic images of beatings from police and military. Family members are shown mourning over the murdered bodies of loved ones. In one scene, a man killed during a violent protest is shown being dragged by the arm by a member of the military.


Frequent profanity, including "f--k," "s--t," and "motherf--ker."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some people smoke cigarettes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Square is a 2014 Oscar-nominated documentary that places the viewer in the heat of the moment of the "Arab Spring" uprising in Egypt in 2011 and that it shows the continued struggles of the protestors as they try to bring democracy to their country. Camera phones and YouTube footage, as well as interviews with protestors, feature prominently in this movie, and, as such, there are frequent scenes of violent clashes between protestors and the police as well as the military. There are graphic images of beatings. Family members are shown mourning over the murdered bodies of loved ones. There's also frequent profanity, including "f--k." The documentary is an unflinching and sometimes gruesome documentation of the injuries, torture, and killing that went on during this time. For teens and parents, this film is an incredible testament to the power of modern technology -- smartphones, social media, YouTube -- to bring about long-overdue revolution, and it should inspire edifying discussion on how these protestors used these tools.

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What's the story?

THE SQUARE is a documentary filmed in the heat of the moment of the Arab Spring uprising in Tahrir Square in February 2011, and it shows the aftermath of this revolt during the next two and a half years as the protestors continue to fight the military as well as new governments that have no interest in bringing about the democracy they've been fighting for. Camera-phone footage of protests, as well as violent clashes with the police and military, are interspersed with interviews with the leaders of the movement, members of the military, and members of the Muslim Brotherhood, who seek to remake the government in their own image. The result is an unflinching account of a struggle against a brutal dictatorship that places the viewer in the eye of the hurricane.

Is it any good?

This documentary is a gut-wrenching and eye-opening account of the Tahrir Square uprising in Cairo, Egypt, in February, 2011, as experienced by those who lived it. Camera-phone footage places the viewer in the heat of the victories and defeats of the revolution, through unflinching shots of those who were tortured by the military as well as of those fighting the police and military to bring about a real democracy to the people of Egypt. The result is an intensely riveting presentation of a country in the midst of great turmoil, as we get a profound sense of what's at stake for those engaged in the struggle to bring about a democratic government in Egypt. 

Furthermore, The Square offers a fascinating glimpse into "people power" in the 21st century: how modern technology is used by activists to fight repressive dictatorships and to spread the word of what's actually happening in the streets to the international stage. For those interested in the power of idealism, of earnest and sustained protest in the face of brutal oppression, and in the events of Arab Spring, this movie is an absolute must-see.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how social networking and camera phones were employed in both the documentation of The Square and the revolution itself. How would this revolt have been different -- in Egypt and on the international stage -- without access to this technology?

  • Do you think the graphic depictions of fighting, violence, and torture were necessary to this documentary? Why, or why not?

  • How did the interviews with the various factions -- the protestors, the military, the Muslim Brotherhood -- present a full picture of what was at stake for each of these groups?

  • How does The Square promote courage, perseverance, and compassion? What about integrity and teamwork? Why are these important character strengths?

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