Red Dawn (1984)

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Red Dawn (1984)

Post  BoG on Fri Oct 12, 2012 9:21 pm

Red Dawn, directed by John Milius, gained some notoriety early on, due to both the concept and the violence (back then, this was one of the most violent films, in terms of on-screen death). It's a war film, taking place in an alternate reality in which Soviets with their allies successfully invade  America. The actual story is a rather small-scale depiction of young American guerrilla fighters in the midwest, taking place within the large scale context of World War III; the big stuff, such as nuclear attacks, occur off-screen and are referred to only briefly. All the action centers on small town Americana and the surrounding American wilderness.
The main characters are a small group of teenagers; the oldest and the leader is played by Patrick Swayze. His brother is played by Charlie Sheen. C. Thomas Howell plays the member who becomes unhinged by the death of his father and the loss of all he knew and becomes a cold-blooded killer. The two female members are played by Lea Thompson and Jennifer Grey.  The group becomes an effective attack force, dubbing themselves the Wolverines. They know the terrain and Swayze uses hit-and-run tactics, sneak attacks and surprise encounters to whittle away at the occupying Soviet forces.

Powers Boothe plays a real Air Force officer who accidentally joins the group for a brief period. Ben Johnson and Harry Dean Stanton play father figures who pop up briefly in the early going; soon enough, all older generation Americans fade away from the picture, leaving the youngsters on their own. The two key figures of the invasion force are played by Ron O'Neal and William Smith. Smith plays a specialist who is brought in specifically to deal with the Wolverines.
The film becomes less about patriotism and more about the brutal necessities of survival and killing in war. Some viewers might scoff at the concept of teens becoming a feared unit that the invading Soviets cannot handle, but this is a textbook case of individuals rising to meet unusual challenges. Of course, they would have remained typical American teens if the invasion hadn't happened; but, necessity is the mother of invention. The mid-eighties were ripe with American-Soviet conflict in films and TV; most notable was the mini-series, Amerika, in 1987. The remake of Red Dawn arrived in 2012.  BoG's Score: 7.5 out of 10

Red Trivia: all of William Smith's lines are in Russian; the actor knew the Russian language in real life.
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