By Jess Lomas
January 29, 2014
Play It Again is a weekly feature in which our classic-film connoisseurs revisit a revered motion picture from the annals of movie history, to see if it holds up… or if it has aged terribly. And yes, it takes its name from a famously misquoted Casablanca line. (Hey, whatever. It fits!)
The teenage perspective during war or a dystopian future is well-tread territory. From Australia’s own Tomorrow When the War Began to mega-franchise The Hunger Games, young adults bearing arms is big business. If World War III were to happen, John Milius’s Red Dawn proves you’d want Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen on your side.
It begins as any other small-town morning in Calumet, Colorado. Jed Eckert (Swayze) drops his younger brother Matt (Sheen) off at school, teasing him about the recent loss of the school football team, the Wolverines. The first class of the day is soon interrupted by Russian paratroopers descending into town, and it becomes clear their intent is to kill and round up citizens.
It’s part of a larger invasion by the Soviet Union, who nuked Washington D.C. and China and has teamed up with Cuban allies to occupy the United States. Jed and Matt manage to escape the invasion with some friends, load their truck with supplies, and head to the mountains to take shelter. Once food begins to run out and their desire to learn what is going on amplifies, the group discover the severity of the invasion. After taking on two new recruits, sisters Erica (Lea Thompson) and Toni (Jennifer Grey), the group launch a guerilla retaliation against the invading forces.
What’s impressive about Red Dawn is how it treats its characters; teenagers who are not reduced to love triangles or talks of crushes and school dances. Their vulnerability is only exposed when their loved ones die and their swiftness to learn combat, as well as their desire to take down the enemy, is far from juvenile. What’s not impressive about Red Dawn is, basically, everything else. It’s an overly long, monotonous movie, constantly repeating the same scene: of patriotic American teens outsmarting dumb Soviet forces to save their town and country. The performances are wooden and laughable, the action completely over the top, the death count high, and the anti-communist sentiment is palpable.
Red Dawn is available on Quickflix.