Common Sense Note
Parents need to know that this exciting, 1979-set sci-fi drama -- which follows a group of young teens who witness a horrific train accident while making a homemade movie and get caught up in a military cover-up involving a mysterious and dangerous beast -- has some intense action violence, especially the truly terrifying train wreck. There's some blood and weapons use, and some scenes may make you jump out of your seat, but gore is minimal. Also expect some drinking/drug content (including someone trying to sell the kids pot) and swearing (including one use of "f--k," as well as "s--t," "a--hole," and more). Director J.J. Abrams manages to perfectly capture the feeling of similar movies from the period, largely by drawing shamelessly from the works of producer Steven Spielberg.
Joe and Alice flirt with each other, exchanging furtive glances and then having heart-to-heart talks. They eventually share a couple of embraces, and it's clear they "like each other."
From the huge, terrifying train crash that starts the action to the heart-stopping climax when lives we care about are at stake, there's a lot of action that's likely to scare younger viewer (a couple of scenes may literally leave viewers jumping out of their seats or gasping aloud). The alien is unseen for most of the movie, but he wreaks havoc by making scary things happen. A man bloodied in an accident pulls a gun on teenagers to get them to flee; several characters are grabbed by the alien. The Air Force is led by a sadistic colonel who thinks nothing of ordering a scientist killed by a poisonous injection or sending his people out on near-suicide missions. The troops start a fire to force a town to evacuate. The alien squashes people, but there aren't any lingering shots of blood or guts (the way there would be in an R-rated movie). A mother's death via a horrible steel mill accident is talked about throughout the movie.
One humorously depicted use of the word "f--k" (said by an older teen), as well as several uses of "s--t," "bulls--t," "a--hole," and "bitch" by the middle-school protagonists. Other words include "p---y," "d--k," "hell," "ass," "damn," "dumbass," "idiot," "stupid," "oh my God," and a few exclamations of "Jesus!" and "God!"
The movie's overall message is that communication is essential in understanding others and can help avoid violence and promote understanding. Also, that isolation, loneliness, and cruelty only breed anger, bitterness, and revenge.
Drugs / Tobacco /
Deputy Lamb and his fellow officers drink beer after their shifts. The camera shop salesman asks Charles and his middle-school friends if they want to buy pot; he's later shown smoking a joint and admits that he's high. The kids react to his inability to drive during a crisis by saying "Drugs are so bad." Mr. Dainard is usually shown drunk, drinking, or smoking cigarettes.