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Red Dawn (1984)
Red Dawn is a 1984 American war film directed by John Milius and co-written by Milius and Kevin Reynolds. It stars Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell, Lea Thompson, Charlie Sheen and Jennifer Grey. It was the first film to be released with the MPAA rating of PG-13. The film is set in an alternate 1980s in which the United States is invaded by the Soviet Union and its Cuban and Nicaraguan allies. However, the onset of World War III is in the background and not fully elaborated. The story follows a group of American high school students who resist the occupation with guerrilla warfare, calling themselves Wolverines, after their high school mascot. An introductory text explains how the USA gradually became strategically isolated when several European nations, except the United Kingdom, withdrew their membership in NATO. At the same time, the Warsaw Pact are aggressively expanding their sphere of influence. In addition, the Ukrainian wheat harvest fails and a communist coup occurs in Mexico. On a September morning in the small town of Calumet, Colorado, a local high school teacher pauses mid sentence when he sees paratroopers landing in a nearby field.
Ignoring the outrageous jingoism for a minute, it should be noted that the movie does have plenty of forward momentum, starting from the moment when a bunch of Wyoming high schoolers (all '80s A- and B-list Brat Packers) look out their classroom window and see a huge number of paratroopers dropping into town. The soldiers who don't speak Russian speak Spanish. It seems that the Soviets have made a successful nuclear first strike (hey, that's cheating!) and have joined forces with ominously swarthy Cuban and Nicaraguan troops to storm a suddenly crippled America. The kids don't know all of this yet, though. All they know is that one of the soldiers has murdered their teacher right in front of them. Godless Commies!
Quickly hopping into their pickup trucks, the kids skedaddle home where they find that all the able-bodied men have been already rounded up for 'reeducation' down at the local drive-in theater, which is now ringed in barbed wire. Grabbing an impressive arsenal of weaponry from their fathers' gun racks (remember: Wyoming is Dick Cheney country), the kids literally head for the hills and start to plan a guerrilla insurgency against this unacceptable new world order. Naming themselves the Wolverines after their school mascot, these letter-sweater jocks plot to take America back from the borscht-drinking savages who have the audacity to park their tanks right in front of McDonald's. A mix of football plays and old-fashioned American knowhow will serve them well.
Leading the pack is Jed Eckert (Patrick Swayze, a leathery 32 years old at the time) and his younger brother Matt (Charlie Sheen). Their buddy Robert (C. Thomas Howell) is along for the adventure as is Erica (Lea Thompson) and later on Toni (Jennifer Grey), along with a few others. As weeks and months pass, the gang devises all sorts of clever schemes to go back into town to visit their fathers in detention ('Avenge me!!!' shrieks Jed and Matt's father (Harry Dean Stanton)), to sabotage Soviet equipment, even to blow up the local Soviet headquarters. They rarely have adult assistance, except when they run into downed Air Force pilot (Powers Boothe), who fills them in on the sputtering war effort, including the interesting fact that the Chinese are on our side but the Russians have already killed 400 million of them. Yikes.
The kids grower braver, tougher, and ever more American. They face death, discomfort, and even a traitor in their midst. Will they have the nerve to execute an injured Soviet soldier they find. Hell, yeah! A bullet in the brain is sweet revenge, Ivan! Will the have the nerve to kill their own turncoat friend? On your knees, traitor! Hurl that grenade! Wave that flag! Tag the nearest wall: the Wolverines were here!
By the time World War III winds down, the Wolverines are the stuff of legend, national heroes who symbolize all that is right with American youth. The camera makes sweet love to the rock outcropping that serves as a memorial to their bravery and sacrifice. An American flag flaps forcefully in the Wyoming wind, and all that's left to do is to beat the wrecked Soviet tanks into plowshares.
See Red Dawn only when you're in the mood for a guilty pleasure. Snicker at the Ramboesque quotable quotes, and ponder the fact that ultimately America was able to conquer the Soviets even without the help of the Wolverines.
Wolverines need Happy Meals!