Review: Red Dawn

{By Michael Vuke}

red dawn posterThe folks at MGM decided it was time to reboot the classic 80’s war movie Red Dawn.

North Korea and its allies have invaded America, and we are caught right in the middle of it (the opening sequence explains how this could be plausible. Just trust me on this; it kinda works). The Eckert brothers, Jed and Matty, escape from town with a group of friends and strangers as the invaders occupy their homes. Ultimately, they decide to fight back and form the Wolverines—a guerilla group designed to be a thorn in the occupying forces side.

Jed Eckert tells the Wolverines that when he fought in the Middle East, they were the good guys enforcing peace, but now they must become the bad guys and create chaos. So, do these good bad guys (or is it bad good guys?) create a movie worth watching?

From a cinematic standpoint, Red Dawn is well done.

It isn’t the best camera work that has ever been done, but it was solid, aside from an overly spastic chase sequence. The original Red Dawn helped catapult stars like Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen, and some other new young actors to fame, and the remake has taken on the same mantle. Chris Hemsworth (Thor) and Josh Hutcherson (The Hunger Games) are the biggest names to headline (Red Dawn was filmed pre-Avengers/Hunger Games but had its release delayed). Other stars include Josh Peck, Adrianne Palicki, and Conner Cruise (Tom Cruise’s son). The entire cast delivered good performances; I don’t believe any of them will win any awards, but they all worked together well.

From a moral standpoint, Red Dawn is decent.

What is acceptable for you to watch is a wildly variable thing, so I won’t try to pass judgment on whether it is fine for you or not. For a full break down of everything check out Plugged In’s review. The closest thing to sex that you get in Red Dawn is a few kisses, a man saying that he misses “hot girls”, and someone referencing skinny dipping. While there was essentially no sexual content, there was a decent amount of cursing (around 60 times). Most of the language stayed in ‘milder’ territory, but there were a few stronger words.

If you are sensitive to violence, Red Dawn might not be your movie.

The original Red Dawn was picketed by some groups for being too violent and dark, but you won’t see anyone picketing it for its violent content. There are plenty of explosions and deaths, but it is a sanitary violence. There are no fountains of blood, torture scenes, graphic images, or gore splatters. Red Dawn is an action/war movie, and it stays within traditional action movie boundaries with its violence. Deaths that would be more impactful than a soldier in a firefight usually occur just off screen or are cut away at the last minute.

War is hell.

The original Red Dawn was an unflinching look at war and morality in war, with the good guys facing issues like whether they should execute a POW and a traitor, self-sacrifice, and the terrible price of freedom; it ended standing tall in patriotic pride yet saddened by the futile loss of life and innocence that occurred. The reboot captures the patriotic pride, but skips over the emotional trauma. Where characters embraced their fear and hatred in order to survive and fight another day, they now simply fight because it is their home with none of the moral struggles that haunted the original Wolverines.

Red Dawn does not vilify war, but it doesn’t glorify it either.

It simply happens. This safe approach surrounds the whole movie, from production (changing the bad guys from Chinese to North Korean post-filming to avoid antagonizing the Chinese market) to delivery. The original movie was emotional, rough, and still causes me to wipe away a tear or two when I watch it. The remake was enjoyable, sanitary, and didn’t create a strong emotional connection.

This does not make it a bad movie, or a poorly done one, it just fulfills a different need. The new Red Dawn isn’t the product of a country afraid of being invaded by another super-power. It isn’t forcing us to face a scenario that could very well play out in the near future and all of the moral choices that would entail. The new Red Dawn is an action movie designed to entertain, distract, and make you go “OO-RAH!”

If you are looking for a well-done film that delivers fire-fights and explosions in a cohesive and enjoyable package (albeit rough around the edges), Red Dawn is for you. And afterwards, you may just find yourself throwing your fist in the air as you triumphantly scream: