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Short takes

Not suitable under 14; parental guidance to 15 (violence, scary scenes, themes of torture)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Ascendant
  • a review of Ascendant completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 19 April 2021.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 14 Not suitable due to scary scenes, violence, and themes of torture.
Children aged 14–15 Parental guidance recommended due to scary scenes, violence, and themes of torture.
Children aged 16 and over Ok for this age group.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: Ascendant
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Mature fantasy themes, violence and blood detail
Length: 101 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Aria Wolf (Charlotte Best) awakens to find herself kidnapped and held hostage in a high-speed elevator in a 120-floor building in Shanghai. As she desperately tries to escape, Aria’s Russian captor, Yaroslav (Alex Menglet), forces her to watch live footage of her father (Jonny Pasvolsky) being brutally tortured for information about the mysterious ‘Engineer.’ As Aria is pushed to her physical and psychological limits, her younger self (Tahlia Sturzaker) slowly reveals her incredible powers over nature she has hidden from her older self. To save her father, herself, and the twin sister (Lily Stewart) she had been forced to forget, Aria must unlock her powers and defeat her captors.


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Torture; Kidnapping; Sexual violence; Murder; Family separation; Supernatural abilities.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie, including:

  • Aria is slammed against the floor each time her captors deliberately cause the elevator to rapidly drop from a great height – this causes her visible pain and distress.
  • Aria’s father is tortured throughout the film:
    • Violence shown includes him being tasered, beaten, waterboarded, and a gun being shot near his ear.
    • Implied violence includes having his finger cut off, part of his ear removed, his fingernails removed with pliers, his fingers crushed by a hammer, and a finger deliberately broken.
  • A Russian thug is shot dead by Aria’s father – this is depicted as justified as her father is trying to escape his captors.
  • Aria’s father is shot in the back by thugs.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • There are several jump scares in this film, including loud noises and sudden movements that will likely scare young children.
  • Aria is shown in significant distress (emotionally and physically) throughout the film – this will likely disturb young children.
  • Young Aria is shown screaming and crying (without sound) – this may disturb young children.
  • Aria and her sister have supernatural abilities that appear when the characters scream, causing their faces to distort and become covered in grey scales, and their eyes to turn bright green – these physical transformations may frighten young children.
  • When Aria’s powers return, she dissolves into particles of light which allow her to change her form – this may disturb younger viewers.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • Aria is kidnapped and held captive in an elevator while watching a video of her father being tortured in real-time.
  • It is implied that Aria’s mother has been shot and killed while on the phone with Aria. It is later suggested that she was decapitated by Russian thugs.
  • Aria’s father dies in her arms after being shot in the back.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged eight to thirteen, including the following:

  • The film opens with Aria alone in the elevator, gagged and bound and crying in distress – this will likely disturb younger children in this age group.
  • Aria tries to escape the elevator and is wounded by a piece of metal – blood is visible and Aria cries in pain as her wound worsens throughout the film.
  • Aria’s father’s dismembered finger and ear are shown briefly – this will likely disturb younger viewers due to the gory nature of these sequences.
  • During a flashback to their youth, Aria’s twin sister is shown with blood on her hands and indicates that she murdered a man for beating a dog – this may be missed by younger children but may be distressing for some due the character’s young age.

Thirteen and overinfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

  • A Russian thug yells at Aria to remove her clothing – while she does not undress, this sexualised violence may be distressing to some viewers.
  • An elevator attendant tries to free Aria but is shot in the head by a Russian thug – the death is not shown, but blood is visible through the elevator grating.
  • Aria is asked to choose whether she or her father is murdered first – this may disturb some viewers.

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie:

  • Smart phone
  • Coca-Cola
  • Converse.

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • A Russian thug demands that Aria remove her clothing on camera – she does not comply.

Nudity and sexual activity

  • None noted.

Use of substances

  • None noted.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • Fuck
  • Shit
  • Dick
  • Hell
  • Freak.

In a nutshell

Ascendant is an Australian film from first time Director, Antaine Furlong and is produced as both a claustrophobic thriller and a science fiction mystery. With frequent flashbacks, this film struggles to integrate its competing story lines into a cohesive narrative and may be more confusing than entertaining for viewers. The violence and themes of physical and psychological torture make this film unsuitable for children under 14 and parental guidance is recommended to 15. Parents and guardians should also note that this film was originally classified MA15+ prior to its release.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Protecting family and those you care about in times of danger.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • Knowing emergency phone numbers if lost while on holiday (as was the case for Aria).
  • How to seek help if stuck in an elevator.