In honor of the release of the new Red Dawn starring Chris Hemsworth, the review of the original Red Dawn with its all-star cast of the top stars of the 1980s: Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen, C. Thomas Howell, Lea Thompson, and Jennifer Grey.
Grey and Swayze would go on to make one of the greatest love stories of all time with Dirty Dancing in 1988. Lea Thompson is most well-known for the Back to the Future movies. C. Thomas Howell was a member of the ensemble cast of The Outsiders which also starred Sheen and Swayze. He would grow up to play the therapist/boyfriend of Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland)’s daughter Kim on 24 and most notably at least in the minds of Criminal Minds fans as George Foyette, The Boston Reaper. The Boston Reaper was the major bad guy in Season 5. He faked his own attack to halt his work as the serial killer after a truce with the lead investigator. The investigator passes the truth on to Section Chief Aaron Hotcher who refuses to take the agreement. He becomes Hotchner’s nemesis, almost kills him, and ultimately kills Hailey, the mother of his child and still the love of his life.
The original movie set in the 1980s is set in the height of the Cold War. Americans feared a nuclear war with Russia and so this movie, filmed in 1984, creates the nightmarish illusion of what if America’s arch rivals teamed up to wage World War 3? Cuban forces begin the invasion with an ever increasing attachment of Nicaraguan soldiers. Once they have penetrated Texas and parts of the coasts, Russian crossing the Bearing Strait and crosses into Alaska, marching across that icy ground through Canada to act as a pincer. Cubans from the south and sides and Russians coming in from the North and America has to stand alone with only a little help from Britain and a large number of what is said to be military insufficient Chinese soldiers. Brothers Matt and Jed Eckert bring a handful of kids into the mountains and try to survive. Only when they rescue two girls of a family friend and one is almost raped they are suddenly labeled as guerillas when they defend her shooting the three soldiers who went after her. The mayor, father of one of the boys turns the boys names over to the commander of the enemy forces and their parents are brought out to the field where they bury their soldiers, in an area where the kids can see, and murder their fathers in retaliation while other family members are forced to watch. This drives one boy, Robert, (Howell) insane with hate. He is all about the killing and when its revealed that Darryl, the son of the mayor was tortured and forced to swallow a tracking device he is put with a captured Russian soldier. Jed kills the soldier but cannot bring himself to shoot the boy he’s protected for months. While he tries to think of some solution to keep the group safe and to get the tracker out of Darryl, Robert kills him. The other kids including Jed who really is only a few years older is sickened by the death of Darryl even though they knew that allowing them to stay with the tracker would be suicide. The kids actually embrace the guerrilla mentality once their families are slaughtered and once an Air Force colonel is shot down and comes to live with them, he begins training them because even he can see no other option than to help them rather than risk them getting themselves killed. He is the first to notice that something is seriously wrong with Robert. The colonel is killed trying to protect them and the little teenage girl with a crush on him, Erica is even more emotional distraught than she already does. As the numbers began to dwindle and the Cubans and Russians trick them into the open with promises of cereal and fresh fruit, Jed makes a decision. He is tired and emotionally distraught over the death of Erica’s sister, Toni, hinting at a possible relationship or the fact that he was the one, the more emotionally strong of the two girls to sneak out in the open to start gathering the fruit while they covered her. When she is shot, she begs Jed to kill her so they don’t find her and try to torture her. He can’t do it even though he knows she speaks the truth. He ends up giving her a live grenade which kills the soldier who comes to collect her body. Jed comes to the decision that he must go into town and create a distraction for the youngest of the kids and the remaining girl, Erica. Matt refuses to let him go alone. The Cuban general slowly begins to realize he is wary of war and the fact that he had always been on the side of the insurgents. He slowly began to realize that it was their forces that had forced these American children to fight back when the rest bowed to the forces. Had they left them a lone and not forced them to retaliate they would have had no opposition from them, but as a soldier he had no choice but to follow the Russian General’s command. When Matt and Jed entered the town and began their assault he rushed outside like everyone else. He had a machine gun ready to shoot them until he looked into Jed’s eyes as he carried Matt’s lifeless body towards the park, where they’d had some happy memories as children…before their father started teaching them to hunt and fish….tools that would have meant their survival if they hadn’t been forced to watch their father’s execution. He looks into Jed’s tormented face and down at the lifeless body of Matt, sudden realizing that all the deaths and all of the forces he’d thrown at the guerrillas were just a handful of kids who were in most cases to young to drive. He lowers his rifle and waves them away seeing the blood on both of their bodies, (Jed’s also been shot,) and says, “Vaya Con Dios,” which means Go with God. His decision wasn’t soley based on seeing the boys. He’d been in the midst of writing his wife and telling her he was weary of war and killing defenseless people when they didn’t start the trouble he had. He ended the letter before the attack informing her that he would be posting his resignation.
Now the new movie is set in the new millennium. There is no Cold War. Russia is broken apart into many countries. Cuba’s once powerful and feared dictator, Fidel Castro died and Nicaragua’s Noriega was imprisoned in the 1990s. These are powers that either are no longer major powers or they have ineffectual leadership. However, there will always be people who want to be a Global Superpower and we are still at War. I have tried not to read any spoilers on the new Red Dawn but the most likely candidates for the opposing forces in the remake would be North Korea (since the remake was planned before the death of Kim Jong-Il,) or a Muslim extremist group teaming with North Korea. It will be certainly interesting to see how the new movie fares with the old one. Bonus points have to be given to Hemsworth, who is Australian for the movie trailers where he attempts to use the same gravelly rasp that Swayze was known to use.