SAS: Red Notice Parent Guide
With no positive themes and a bizarre endorsement of psychopathy, this unpleasant film is not going to be a hit with a wide audience.
Parent Movie Review
Tom Buckingham (Sam Heughan) is an elite member of the Special Air Service, the special operations arm of the British military. He’s had a very successful career thus far, including an assault on the base of the equally well-trained Black Swan paramilitary group. The Black Swans are a family operation, with father William Lewis (Tom Wilkinson), daughter Grace (Ruby Rose), and son Oliver (Owain Yeoman) working together on violent and off-the-books operations for those who can pay – most recently, a British oil company that wanted to see some villages “dealt with” in order to build a pipeline through Georgia (the ex-Soviet republic, not the US state). But word got out, and the SAS issued a Red Notice on the whole family, authorizing their capture. The Black Swans aren’t an easy target: following the SAS assault on their property, they enact a backup plan to hijack the Eurostar train between London and Paris and threaten to expose their employers unless a ransom of £500 million is paid to their accounts. They just didn’t count on Tom Buckingham being on the train with his girlfriend, Dr. Sophie Hart (Hanna John-Kamen)…and it’s a complication they’ll soon regret.
On the surface, this is a paint-by-numbers action thriller. It’s like half of a Liam Neeson movie …without Liam Neeson (which is, in fact, the only thing going for most of those movies). SAS: Red Notice also exists in the shadow of Andy McNab, the author of the book on which the film is based. Apart from an…interesting military service record in Ireland during The Troubles, McNab has co-authored a book with Dr. Kevin Dutton describing how psychopathy can be beneficial. Now, I’m not going to try to unpack all of that, but it does bleed heavily into the film. And it’s distracting. Instead being a standard action thriller, the movie takes little detours into weird alleys about the benefits of being a psychopath, and why all our psychopathic hero needs is the love of a good woman and not, you know, therapy.
Even weirder is dear Dr. Sophie’s acceptance of Tom’s apparent need to murder people. By the end of the film, she’s encouraging him to go out and whack people, which is some stellar character development. You could subtitle this movie “Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Murder”, but I don’t think comparisons to Dr. Strangelove will benefit Red Notice. While I somehow doubt this is the message of McNab and Dutton’s book, it’s not a good one for the film.
All that aside, this uninspired film won’t be your first choice for family viewing. There is a lot of bloody, graphic violence, including war crimes against some of those townspeople in Georgia. There are also 63 sexual expletives floating around throughout the runtime, which is rather a lot for younger audiences – and for most of the mature audiences I know, too. Mercifully, there isn’t any sexual content or drug use, but I suppose that SAS: Red Notice already had its hands full, what with trying to balance the joy of murder with a canned action plot. It’s a neat juggling act, if you have the moral backbone of wilted lettuce.Directed by Magnus Martens. Starring Sam Heughan, Hannah John-Kamen, and Ruby Rose. Running time: 123 minutes. Theatrical release March 16, 2021. Updated March 20, 2021
Watch the trailer for SAS: Red Notice
SAS: Red Notice
Rating & Content Info
Why is SAS: Red Notice rated R? SAS: Red Notice is rated R by the MPAA for strong/bloody violence and language throughout.
Violence: Many individuals are killed or injured in a variety of ways, including being shot, stabbed, blown up, asphyxiated, and a few incidents of neck-breaking. War crimes against a civilian population are shown which feature many of the same incidents but with the addition of a flamethrower, causing several individuals to be burned alive.
Sexual Content: There is a brief non-sexual partial shot of a male posterior.
Profanity: There are 63 uses of extreme profanity, 14 scatological curses, and frequent use of terms of deity and mild profanities.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Adults are briefly seen drinking socially.
Page last updated March 20, 2021
SAS: Red Notice Parents' Guide
There is a dark history of large corporations using paramilitary and other mercenary groups to intimidate or terrorize communities, particularly in developing nations. Why do you think they are able to get away with this kind of behavior?
Wikipedia: Private military company
NPR: Global Reach: The Pipeline War
Human Rights Watch: Oil Companies Complicit in Nigerian Abuses
Amnesty International: Investigate Shell for complicity in murder, rape and torture
Loved this movie? Try these books…
This movie is based on SAS: Red Notice by Andy McNab.
Fans of this kind of intensive action will likely enjoy Tom Clancy novels, particularly Rainbow Six which pits an elite international team of special-operations soldiers against a dangerous cabal of bioterrorists.
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Other train hijackings can be found in The Taking of Pelham 123, The Commuter, and, easily the best of the bunch, Source Code. If you like the action, the first two are basically Die Hard on a train. If you’re just here for the trains, you can see Chris Pine and Denzel Washington battle a dangerous runaway in Unstoppable.