Elephant movie review - Aussieboyreviews


This overrated, extremely boring and completely meaningless high school drama is entirely centred on teens’ lives. It targets the topic of a school shooting, but not until the third act.


The daily lives of ordinary high school students as they go through their daily routines, whilst two others plan for an armed ambush.

Movie Images

Movie details

Director: Gus Van Sant
Cast: Elias McConnell, Alex Frost, Eric Deulen, John Robinson, Jordan Taylor, Carrie Finn, Nicole George, Brittany Mountain
Writer: Gus Van Sant
Release Date (Australia): 24 January 2004
Runtime: 81 minutes/1h 21m
Genre: Drama, Crime, Thriller
Country: USA
Language: English

CONTENT GUIDE (warning: May contain spoilers)

Themes (MA15+)

The film features a sustained school shooting sequence.

Violence (MA15+)

During a sustained school shooting sequence, people are shot and accompanying blood sprays are depicted.

Coarse Language (M)

The film contains the words “f**k”, “s**t”, “bitch” and “hell”.

Drug Use (PG)

There is a scene in which two people are briefly viewed sharing a marijuana joint.

Nudity (G)

There is a very brief depiction of female buttocks nudity.

Sex (PG)

The film contains verbal sexual references and a depiction of two implicitly nude teenage boys kissing in a shower.

mpaa rating

R (for disturbing violent content, language, brief sexuality and drug use – all involving teens)

Aussie boy's thoughts

Gus Van Sant’s boringly-sustained shots from behind of high school students walking through the hallway could’ve been the time dedicated to sharing the motives for the two students who ended up shooting up the school. Elephant is simply a tedious and meaningless low-budget drama about teenagers’ daily lives with absolutely no messages, morals or significance at the end.

The only really admirable thing about this movie is the director’s very clever way to capture the perspectives of several high school students. Whilst the camera might be focusing on a character taking pictures or teenage girls talking, there’s always something of a perspective that’s happening in the background that is eventually focused on entirely. But honestly, whilst it’s very smart, it’s also extremely boring, unnecessary and prolonged. The camera following behind the characters is all that happens during the first two acts.

It isn’t until the third act, after a whole hour of pointless perspectives, where we get to look at the two students who are planning to shoot up the school. The worst thing is that we never get the answers or see the motives within their perspectives to make us care for them or gain a bit more of an understanding to how they feel. So by the time all the building-up has finished and the final 20 minutes arrive, there’s no tension or pressure at all.

Gus Van Sant’s direction may be unique, and you can tell that by just the first 5 minutes, but his screenwriting is seriously, seriously bad; it’s probably the worst thing about the film. It’s the writing that also blends with the terrible acting that also makes the film seem very unrealistic and careless. Whilst kids are literally being shot and killed, others are calmly standing outside the building talking about it as if it’s all fake. So Elephant just seems like a terribly overrated low-budget film with no intentions to entertain, compel or even just to slightly move.

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