Big Game Parent Review
The plot of this film is no more far-fetched than many a tinsel-town tale. What makes this action flick different is the way it breaks from the norm for entertainment aimed at a young audience.
Hollywood has some well-established—if unwritten—laws governing the making of kids’ movies. First, all the violence needs to be sanitized – meaning killings are usually just implied, nothing “messy” is shown (like in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Night at the Museum and National Treasure). Second, good guys never kill the bad guys – they turn them over to the authorities, or the villains meet their demise through their own folly (such as in The Incredibles, The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast). And third, justice always prevails—the only exception being if there are plans to make a sequel (see Superman, Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone and Star Wars: A New Hope).
For that reason Big Game may be a surprise for North American viewers. Although it features an adolescent protagonist (and seems clearly aimed at a ‘tween/teen aged audience) this joint production between Finland, Germany and the UK doesn’t acknowledge—or follow—any of the previously mentioned rules.
The movie begins on the eve of Oskari’s (Onni Tommila) thirteenth birthday. According to an ancient custom, the time has come for the boy to prove he is a man. Following in the footsteps of his father (Jorma Tommila) and all the other male members of his isolated Finnish village, he will set out alone on a 24-hour hunting trip in the surrounding mountainous wilderness. Whatever game he happens to shoot with his arrow will be the measure of his masculinity and symbol of his status within the community for the rest of his life. It’s a big day with even bigger consequences for the small chap.
At the same time as Oskari is embarking on his quest, Air Force One happens to be flying over his head. On route to a summit meeting in Helsinki, President William Alan Moore (Samuel L. Jackson) passes his travel time musing over his dismal ratings in the popular press. Thus preoccupied, Bill (as he is called by his closest associates) is unprepared when a missile suddenly slams into the side of plane. Fortunately his security guard (Ray Stevenson) is ready for action. Taking control of the emergency situation, the well-trained operative puts the Commander-in-Chief into an escape pod, jettisons the craft and then follows his charge by parachute. The wounded plane is abandoned to the care of whoever may still be alive onboard.
The President’s capsule is the first to land, and does so in a fiery ball of flame. It falls in a forest so quiet that only one witness hears the crash – Oskari! Unsure if the “UFO” is alien or human, the youngster musters the courage to examines the wreck and inadvertently discovers the world leader. However, once introductions and reassurances are over, the native of Finland isn’t terribly impressed by the identity of the survivor. So instead of agreeing to notify someone of the whereabouts of the lost politician, the boy insists on completing his test of manliness first. Unfamiliar with their rugged surrounding, Bill is forced to kowtow to his companion’s decision and begrudgingly follows along. But the delay in getting help turns out to be a mistake because it gives the perpetrators behind the daring attack time to track down their still-living target. And that leaves the President with only one tiny defender between himself and the terrorists.
The plot of this film is no more far-fetched than many a tinsel-town tale. And like a vast number of those, this movie has obviously spent good money on strong production values, special effects and a big name star. (These assets help cover up some of the flaws of the often-implausible scenarios.) It also expects viewers with any understanding of technology to forget everything they know about the actual abilities of surveillance satellites and the range of electronic devices in remote corners of the world.
Yet what makes this action/adventure flick different is the way it breaks from the norm for entertainment aimed at a young adolescent demographic. Many characters die—with nary a concern from their callous killers. Gunshots and injuries, with realistic blood effects, are frequently shown on screen. Bad guys kill good guys, and good guys kill bad guys. And some villains get their comeuppances, while others get away with their tyranny.
As well, parents may be caught off guard when this PG-13 rated movie depicts disturbing malice of intent, death threats and battered corpses. The script uses moderate amounts of profanities, scatological slang and terms of deity. And there are frequent images of hunting trophies, animal skulls/antlers and the bloody dismembered head of a deer.
Yet Big Game does present an interesting example of cultural conditioning. Depending on where we live, we will have certain expectations for the way stories are told. These differences will likely impact the way we feel about the amount of graphic detail in children’s movies. And this acclimatization is worthy of introspection. Do we protect our children when we “clean up” these portrayals? Or would it be better to have them understand the realities of such altercations? Why do we create violence for amusement in the first place? The answers to such questions are sure to be as individual and varied as they families contemplating them! Still, whatever your personal persuasions, a thoughtful discussion about this topic is likely appropriate for all ages.Directed by Jalmari Helander. Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Onni Tommila, Ray Stevenson, Victor Garber, Felicity Huffman, Jim Broadbent. Running time: 87 minutes. Theatrical release June 26, 2015. Updated May 13, 2016
Get details on profanity, sex and violence in Big Game here.
Big Game Parents Guide
Big Game is opening in limited theaters. It is also available on Video-on-Demand.
The script is based on an origional story by Jalmari Helander (who also directs this film) and Petri Jokiranta.
Talk about the movie with your family…
Why do you think American moviemakers play down the details of violent acts in the movies they make for young audiences? How comfortable are you with watching graphic depictions? How might the sanitization of such acts influence the way violence is perceived?
How might the rating assigned to a film affect the size of the audience that may come to see it? What do you feel is the appropriate age for viewing a PG rated film? A PG-13 rated movie? Or an R rated movie? What types of content seem the most objectionable to you?
How is the depiction of the President different in this Finland/Germany/UK production from those found in American made movies? Who is the hero of this film? What self-confidence issues do both of these characters deal with? How do they help each other overcome these fears?