Red Dawn (1984)

“The Russians need to take us in one piece, and that’s why they’re here.”

Synopsis:
When Communists invade America, a group of teenagers in Colorado — led by Jed (Patrick Swayze) and his brother Matt (Charlie Sheen) — defend themselves in the hills, eventually forming a resistance group known as the Wolverines.

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Response to Peary’s Review:
In his review of this ’80s cult favorite (which he labels “anti-Communist paranoia gone mad”), Peary focuses primarily on the “right-wing politics” of its creator, director/screenwriter John Milius — who, Peary argues, “makes warfare seem fun”, and who seems to envy “the film’s teenagers and underground fighters as they attempt to recapture their homeland.” In truth, if you’re able to ignore the film’s controversial political stance (as well as some of the more glaring plot holes — the scenario is more fantasy than reality), Red Dawn remains a surprisingly enjoyable action flick, one which is guaranteed to appeal to anyone who’s ever dreamed of surviving off the land and/or becoming a guerrilla fighter. The lead actors, as Peary notes, are all “solid action heroes”, and convincingly portray the youthful rebels, though it’s frustrating that we never get to know any of them in great detail (character development is secondary to action here). Indeed, Milius infuses his script with so much fighting that at a certain point “it becomes hard to tell what specifically the insurgents are trying to accomplish during each of their sneak attacks on the invaders” — but action fans surely won’t be disappointed.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Fine performances by the cast of (mostly) unknown young actorsRed Dawn Young Actors
  • The frightening opening “landing” sequence
    Red Dawn Opening
  • A sobering view of what American occupation might look like
    Red Dawn Captivity
  • Refreshing humanization of at least one of the invaders
    Red Dawn Humanization
  • Beautiful cinematography of deceptively “peaceful” landscapes
    Red Dawn Landscape

Must See?
Yes, for its status as a cult favorite.

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One Response to “Red Dawn (1984)”

  1. Not a must.

    First viewing.

    I’ve never felt all that drawn to this film out of curiosity. I’d read several things about it – including that it’s ‘tainted’ by Milius’ politics (which isn’t necessarily true) and that it’s so off-the-wall it’s almost camp (which is hardly true at all).

    ‘RD’ does more or less succeed with it’s ‘what if’ premise (that opening ‘landing’ sequence is indeed creepy). Perhaps Peary lays more of Milius’ code of ethics onto the film than is really there. It doesn’t appear that the film “makes warfare seem fun” at all. This is a story of surviving against the odds and that’s the simple way it plays out. I’ll admit the specifics are a bit confusing on occasion but, if nothing else, the story is unique.

    And it’s true that all of the landscape photography (as well as a number of settings) is exquisite. It’s almost as if Milius wanted to throw in a bit of homage to John Ford’s love of American land. (~making it not surprising that Ben Johnson is cast in a small but significant role.)

    I wouldn’t say that the average ff is likely to take to this film – but I would say certain heterosexual male ffs could be inclined towards it.

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