- Movie Rating -

Red Dawn (1984)

| August 10, 1984

Red Dawn presents the same kind of nightmare scenario as The Day After but the message is a little different.  The latter shows us a ground view of what might happen to middle America if the U.S. and the Soviets got into a nuclear exchange.  This movie offers up what might happen to a small town if the Soviets decided to issue and all-out ground assault, round up hostages and put ordinary American citizens in re-education camps.

The message of The Day After was that nuclear war is a no-win situation, but I’m not sure what Red Dawn is ultimately trying to tell us.  It offers the notion that the Soviets are just as hungry for violence and territorial claims as the Nazis.  They are not portrayed in this film as people, they shoot first and shoot again later.

The war between the U.S. and the Soviets, we gather, takes place in the backgrounds.  The foreground is filled with a group of Colorado high school kids who are forced to defend their territory when Russian paratroopers suddenly fall from the sky one morning and take the whole city of Calumet hostage.

Fleeing into the mountains are brothers Jed (Patrick Swayze) and Matty (Charlie Sheen) who take with them a dozen or so fellow classmates who are tired and scared half out of their minds.  What the brothers have to teach these kids are the outdoor survival skills to fight back against a ruthless enemy that will eventually find them.  The kids dub themselves “The Wolverines” after their high school football team mascot and eventually become a formidable foe against the Russians.

It’s all well and good, but I wondered about the message.  Red Dawn has a very hard right-wing agenda, illustrating and practically demanding a First Amendment mandate to carry handguns and semi-automatic weapons.  The kids arm themselves like freedom fighters in a John Wayne picture and the movie becomes so violent that you can easily see where the movie’s real-life battle with the MPAA came into play.

I can say that I liked the film’s opening scenes, showing the attack on this small town.  Director John Milius does a good job of creating the sheer terror of this situation, but I wonder about the logic.  There is never a given reason that this is happening other than that the Soviets are bad and the Americans are good.  Where is the ideology behind all this tragedy and violence and death?  There need to be reasons for such an all-out assault.  The politics would not be as clean cut as this movie would like to illustrate.  Red Dawn is a movie that raises a lot of questions that it is not willing to answer.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1984) View IMDB Filed in: Action