Red Dawn (1984) is about an invasion of Soviet Union, Cuban and Nicaraguan military forces in a small Colorado town, and the teenagers who escape and fight back using guerrilla warfare as the Wolverines, their high school mascot.
It's a very emotional movie (for me), and although it's not based on an actual war (yet), I think it's the best patriotic movie out there. This starts as a review but somehow turns into something a little different... because this is America, dammit, if I want to derail my own review, it is my right to do so.
If you haven't seen Red Dawn (the 1984 one) and would like to avoid spoilers, or just want to skip to the part where I explain why it's my favorite patriotic movie, keep scrolling until you reach the giant poster. Trust me. You can't miss it.
About the Movie
Red Dawn wastes no time getting to the action. The first shots are fired just after the five-minute mark. Soldiers from a foreign military parachute down early on a quiet September morning and the whole town of Calumet, Colorado is plunged into utter chaos.
A truck full of young men we've barely met manages to make it out of town, loads up with survival supplies, and heads for the mountains. Our military is quick to respond, taking out a road block with a helicopter and saving the asses of the boys who will later become the town's heroes, and launching an attack on the enemy-occupied town that night.
The boys who escaped are Jed Eckert and his younger brother Matt, and their friends Robert, Danny, Daryl and Aardvark. Jed's a little older, but everyone else is just a high school student.
After about a month of living on the mountain and running out of food, a few of the boys decide to head back into town. They find out that the enemy knows who they are and has been looking for them, and that everyone who has been deemed a possible threat has been sent to a "reeducation camp" located in the drive-in, which now only shows propaganda films. The boys get to speak to their father one last time through the fence, who tells them to be strong and to avenge him.
On their way back, the boys visit an old friend who fills them in on the situation: This is World War III, and they're 40 miles behind enemy lines. He gives them a radio, supplies, horses, and two "heirlooms" to take back to the safety of the mountain - his granddaughters, Toni and Erica.
The first mountain skirmish occurs when three soldiers come up to take photos and spot one of the girls. It's a pretty messy affair involving a lot of mistakes and wasted bullets. But hey, you have to make mistakes in order to learn from them.
The teens watch from a distance under camouflage as the invaders bury the three dead soldiers and shoot everyone they suspect may be connected to those involved in the guerrilla attacks. (Thanks for your cooperation in handing over the families of the missing teenagers, Mayor.)
The poorly executed mountain skirmish and witnessing the execution of their families served as the motivation they needed to step up and become the guerrilla fighters they'd been accused of. Toni, an excellent undercover agent because of her sweet and innocent look, plants a bomb on a tank and leads the soldiers into a slaughter. The invaders round up a new group of civilians to execute in retaliation, but the teens strike first. They take down the executioners and continue waging war on the occupying forces, under the name Wolverines - their high school mascot. Wherever there is an enemy take-down, there is a spray-painted Wolverine tag.
Erica stumbles upon a crashed US Air Force pilot and brings him back to camp. The Colonel fills them in on who the enemy is and how they took over, how the American military resisted, and who our allies are. The pro helps the teens formulate a military-grade plan break into the compound, blow shit up, and free and arm the American prisoners.
After the pretty successful mission, the girls' grandfather informs the Wolverines that they're famous - people have heard of them in Free America, and help should be arriving in the spring. In the meantime, the American military continues their air assault while the Wolverines keep things lively on the ground.
The Colonel tells Jed that he can quit now and leave the territory, but Jed refuses to give up. He started this resistance, dammit, and he's going to finish it. An enemy tank rolls in and a very close-up battle ensues, resulting in the death of two Wolverines.
A smarter, more efficient commander takes over the hunt for the Wolverines. Instead of just murdering people to get back at them like his predecessors, he sends a team into the mountains to hunt for the warriors. The Wolverines are ready, and successfully take 'em down. They discover a tracking device on one of the soldiers that leads them to one of their own, who has swallowed a tracker and led the enemy right to them. They execute him alongside a Soviet soldier and leave their bodies in a field.
Executing one of their own weighs heavily on Jed. Even though he isn't the one who pulled the trigger, it was still his decision. He's still human, after all.
Jed stops an attack on a caravan when one of the trucks drops a few boxes of food. The Wolverines feast, but they pay dearly for their brief moment happiness. The enemy attacks, leaving two more dead.
With only four Wolverines left, the group splits. Two are sent to Free America. The Eckert brothers head into town to make one last stand against the occupying forces.
The closing shot is of a monument at the rock the Wolverines used to pay tribute to their dead, now called Partisan Rock. It reads,
In the early days of World War III, guerrillas, mostly children, placed the names of their lost upon this rock.
They fought here alone and gave up their lives so that this nation shall not perish from the earth.
Why It's A Damn Great American Movie
Told you that you couldn't miss it.
Red Dawn is brutal, emotional, and pretty damn inspiring. It tears me up. (I mean "tear" as in rips apart my soul, but also as in the things coming out of my eyes when I watch it.) There's just something about these scared teenagers coming together to form a resistance against such a powerful threat that gets to me. They could have just kept running. But they stayed, and they fought, and they raised all kinds of hell.
Red Dawn is set in an alternate history timeline and about World War III, so it's more of a hypothetical situation than one of the many others regarded as the best patriotic movie. Since this is a world War III movie, which hasn't officially happened yet, at least Red Dawn can be enjoyed without someone popping in to complain about the historical inaccuracies. (Liiike every conversation I've ever tried to have about The Patriot.)
This movie is pretty terrifying, because it doesn't feel all that fictional. With the state of things in the world right now, I wouldn't be all that surprised if something like this happened. (Me? Pessimist? Whaaaat?)
My favorite part of pretty much any given movie or show is the characters, but that's not the case for Red Dawn. There are a few interesting little tidbits about them here and there, but the characters are fairly generic. You've got the leader, the sidekick, the brave one, the damaged one, the scared one, and the budding sociopath. They're given just enough personalities so that you want them to survive, but the movie leaves so much to the imagination that you can start seeing how any one of these characters could be you in this awful scenario.
I watched the remake first, where the enemy has been changed to North Korea, who's been a steady presence on the news for quite a while. It freaked me out. It still does, because there are a great number of opposing forces that can be plugged into the Red Dawn equation without it seeming far-fetched. (Except like France, 'cause what are the French gonna do, rude
us to death? ;D)
But I have faith that even with our current political climate, all the hate and the yelling and all the garbage on the news, there are still Americans who love their country and their neighbors and would do whatever is necessary to protect them. I like to think that if the need arose, even I could be brave enough to make a stand like the Wolverines. (Fingers crossed for not becoming the token sociopath.)
So you can bitch about your government all you like, but when it comes down to it, it's your neighbors that you'll need to count on. People are what matter. People are what make a difference. So be nice to them, dammit.
And that, children, is how I derailed what was supposed to be a simple review of a bad-ass 80s movie and ended up pulling in at the F-Yeah-America station.
The 2012 remake is good too, by the way. Don't mind the haters. If you like a good story, a great cast, and cheering on Americans kicking ass for family and country, give 'em both a shot.