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12 February, 2013

MOVIE REVIEW: "Red Dawn" (1984)

Looking back on my time growing-up as an impressionable kid in the 1980s, I would be hard-pressed to name a film that had a more lasting effect on me than "Red Dawn" (1984) Bluray (DVD version).  It has always been a favorite of mine; and, though eclipsed by some others on my most-loved list, none has ever ingrained itself in my psyche the way this film did.

In case there's actually anyone alive who either hasn't seen it or doesn't remember it that well, the entire film is basically a love letter to the 1980s Cold War era American spirit that resonates strongly with the present-day Patriot Movement and Preppers / Survivalists, in general.

Unlike what we feel we're dealing with today, the threat comes from without; and, being a Cold War era flick, that threat is embodied by a axis of the Soviet Union, Cuba, and Nicaragua.  What we have here is an alternate history in which NATO has been dissolved and the U.S. lost it's nuclear deterrent in Europe, because of the rise of the Green Party who demanded the removal of our missiles from their soil.  Subsequently, Russia experiences their worst wheat harvest in over five decades, thus providing the impetus for them to invade the grain-rich U.S. heartland; and, without the support of NATO, we quickly find ourselves in a world of hurt.

We can all be thankful that no such situation ever arose in real-life, but the film does present a plausible scenario for how it could have occurred.

As is later revealed through dialogue, the first wave of the invasion mirrored the tactics the Soviets used in Afghanistan -- they were disguised as commercial charter flights, but were, in reality, planes full of highly-trained paratroopers, whose mission it was to occupy the passes in the Rocky Mountains.  Our military response was hamstrung by selective nuclear strike that took-out Washington, D.C. and several other essential hubs of communication as well as our nuclear response silos in the Dakotas.  All of this was aided by Cuban and Nicaraguan saboteurs who, having snuck into the country through the porous Mexican-American border as illegal aliens (Lesson: unchecked illegal immigration is dangerous), wreaked havoc on Strategic Air Command bases throughout the South, thus opening the door for the Cuban army to invade.  What follows is a stalemate wherein neither side will use any more nuclear weapons; us because it would be on our own soil and them because they need to take us intact.

The invasion begins just moments into the film and we are thrust along with a group of teenagers, led by one of the boy's older brother, who quickly gather supplies from a store owned by one of the boy's father.  They wisely fill the bed of a pickup truck with dry and canned goods, sleeping bags and all weather jackets, batteries, firearms and ammo, and then bug-out up into the mountains of the Arapaho National Forest to wait-out the danger.

One of the first things the invaders do is to seize the records of private firearm ownership from the local sporting goods/gun stores (including the one where the boys took their supplies from), so that they could disarm the populace in the occupied zone (Lesson: gun registration is bad).

Meanwhile, after about a month, the supply of canned and dry foods the boys commandeered has been expended and some of them are not made for rough, wilderness living i.e. not wanting to eat food the others hunted.  It seems a good time for a small group to venture back to town to see how things stand.

What they find couldn't be much worse.

They pass the wreckage of burned-out tanks and other military vehicles to find that the stores in town are open, but the populace is afraid to speak or to be seen talking to them.  The more rowdy citizens have been packed into a reeducation camp at the old drive-in theater, where those inside are obviously being mistreated, and it is soon discovered that the boy's father who gave them the guns and supplies was shot for aiding guerrillas when the weapons were discovered missing.

These and other atrocities, which include the execution by firing squad of troublesome civilians in retaliation for the deaths of a few Russian soldiers who wandered into the forest where group was camped, result in the group becoming guerrilla fighters for real.  Their small militia adopts the name "The Wolverines" after the local High School football team, carrying out many attacks, including bombing locations inside the occupied town where Soviet and Cuban troops gather in numbers.

What follows is a film that, basically, takes the situation being faced at that time by the people of Afghanistan who were living under Soviet occupation, and transposes that over America's heartland at a time when American patriotism was at its highest point in a very long time (and since).

In the end, it could have used a few script re-writes and a less choppy cinematographer, but I still really enjoyed it. 

Also, see my review of the 2012 remake film.

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