While the odds of World War 3 breaking out fluctuate based on many factors, it seems the threat of war is always present. Though the complete invasion of the United States envisioned in Red Dawn
appears farfetched, it's portrayed in a way that at least brings to mind some "what ifs" to contemplate.
Jed's (Chris Hemsworth) return home after six years of service, including deployment in Iraq, is a welcome surprise to his dad (Brett Cullen) and a confusion of emotions for his younger brother, Matt (Josh Peck). But there's little time for them to repair their relationship before the sky fills with planes and parachuters of an invading force. A small group of teens quick enough to escape is the town's only hope of rescue. Adopting guerilla tactics, they disrupt the takeover at every opportunity – but every victory has a price. Using the local football team’s name, Wolverines, to claim their actions and give hope to people, they refuse to stop until all of America is again "free."
This is a remake of the 1984 film
of the same name, starring Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen as the heroic brothers. Admittedly, the latest version makes several improvements on the original. To start, the events leading up to the invasion are presented via a montage of news clips, often featuring real-life officials commenting on real-life incidents; this is far more effective than the rapid intertitles explaining the situation in the first film.
The ability for a group of kids to effectively challenge a trained military force is also given slightly more traction by providing Jed with a service background, which he then relates to his band of anarchists in a condensed boot camp; again, far more believable than a group of kids that grew up hunting game.
Their choice to take up the charge is answered quite simply: When you can't go home and you can't keep running, what do you do? You fight. In addition, Cullen’s words of encouragement for his sons are more inspiring than Harry Dean Stanton’s "AVENGE ME!"
There is some genuine humour built into the film as the kids occasionally get to act like kids and the trained professionals keep it light. Though there are also numerous moments of tried-and-true patriotism. "We inherited our freedom. Now it's our turn to fight for it!" Depending on the situation, these can be good for a snicker or two as well.
The speed of the invasion is surprising, though its success is loosely explained later in the picture. Moreover, the airwaves are taken over by propaganda broadcasts almost immediately. These developments quickly isolate the group, forcing them to make fast and definitive decisions.
Though this film is fictional and often hard to believe, there are some ideas presented about war and insurgents that could stimulate post-screening discussions. For example, Jed explains that when he was in Iraq the Americans were the good guys trying to help, but now they have to be the bad guys that cause enough chaos to convince their invaders to go home. This raises some interesting questions about “the other side.”
This is an improvement on the original, but still mostly just an entertaining shoot ’em up starring good-looking teen actors.
Director: Dan Bradley
Starring: Chris Hemsworth
, Isabel Lucas
and Josh Hutcherson