Thursday, August 13, 2009

Red Dawn

Red Dawn; Action, USA, 1984; D: John Milius, S: Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell, Charlie Sheen, Lea Thompson, Jennifer Grey, Brad Savage, Powers Boothe, Harry Dean Stanton

Numerous countries around the World turn towards Socialism and Communism, even the whole Latin America. NATO gets dissolved and the USA stays alone in the World, without allies. One day, the Soviet and Cuban soldiers land with parachutes in a small town in Colorado, starting the Soviet occupation of the US. A couple of high school students, among them Jed, Matt, Robert, Erica, Danny and Toni, hide in the mountains and start a paramilitary group, 'Wolverines', in order to battle the occupiers with guerrilla warfare. Many of them die, but Danny and Erica survive while the American soldiers manage to chase away the Soviet occupiers.

"Red Dawn" has a fascinating 'alternate history' concept in which the Soviet Union starts an occupation of the US, riding on the wave of Cold War, though the story is so underdeveloped and scarce that in the end it seems like we only got to see a small part of the bigger experience that got lost. Back in 1984, some critics lamented that John Milius crafted the film like a "gun-obsessed hillbilly", but that's irrelevant. What is relevant, however, is that Milius didn't manage to transmit his fascination with military strategy and tactics to the screen. So many of his films had deep philosophical lines, but here they are absent and it becomes apparent that this turned into a standard action flick. The beginning starts to build up fine, with Soviets landing with their parachutes near a high school and shooting a history teacher who came out, while there is even a scene where Americans are rounded in a camp and presented with Soviet video trying to "convert them", with the announcer saying how "they are now liberated from the Capitalist bloodsuckers" and "will embrace Socialism". But that's where the good parts end and "Red Dawn" steadily degenerates into a silly 'kids fight Soviets like Cowboys and Indians'. But what about the people who are now on the territory under the occupation? What programs do they watch on TV? Do they go to their everyday job? What does the government do during the invasion? How does the World react? Is there a map of the occupied territory? Placing a part of Capitalist USA under Communist Soviet Union (though the Soviet Union was never really a Communist state) would be a much more complicated situation than Milius so simply presents it here. And he doesn't show much, that's the problem, just the perspective of the partisan teenagers hiding in the forest, which is why the whole film turns into a partisan flick. Great idea, but lax execution.


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