Friday, 22 February 2013

Movie Review: Red Dawn

Red Dawn
A Movie Review

Let me start this off bluntly: Somehow Red Dawn is one of the more subversive and surprising movies of the last 12 months. 

In a year where slavery (Lincolon), terrorism/torture (Zero Dark Thirty), Scientology (The Master), and East/West clashes (Argo) dominate the discussion of film critics, a plucky little action remake somehow became more honest and politically representative than any one of these soon-to-be-Oscar-winners.  I don’t know how it happened, and I have no idea why this wasn’t discussed elsewhere, but Red Dawn makes one of the most convincing arguments for Guerrilla warfare, insurgency, and ‘terrorist’ tactics that I’ve ever seen in a big-budget American film....or even small budget American film....or play....or news report.

Before I get into what the film actually says, let’s remember the source material they are working from.  In 1984, at the height of Reagan’s ‘Morning in America’, the original Red Dawn was released.   Capitalizing on the Red Scare, this film took viewers on a nationalistic romp that thinly masked its xenophobic message in exploding cars and bullet-ridden Soviets.....and Nicaraguans (if I remember correctly there were also Nicaraguans in this it was made during a brief window when America was supposed to be afraid of a Sandinista invasion....which no one was.)

When I sat down to watch the remake I expected exactly the same movie, but substantially worse as it was a cheap remake.  What I was presented with was anything but!  Ok, they did have a totally unbelievable enemy (in reality, Americans are as afraid of a North Korean invasion now as they were of a Nicaraguan invasion in 1984), and there were plenty of schlocky action sequences and over-wrought emotional breaks (and yes, there was xenophobia, but it wasn’t the point this time).  So it’s not like I’m saying this movie is perfect, but what I am saying is that the message of the movie was as follows:
   1. ‘Terrorist’ and Guerrilla warfare tactics (car bombs, attacks in civilian locations, small attacks followed by quick retreats in an effort to gain supplies and ammo, etc.) work.  In fact, they work VERY well.
      2. In the long run, large conventional armies really don’t stand a chance against dedicated home-grown insurgents.
   3. The invasion of someone’s homeland will never be seen as just by those being invaded.
    4. Any group that is facing an invasion has a moral imperative to resist the invaders.  Collaborators should be treated the same as enemy soldiers.

Now, if these messages were constantly accompanied by some message of American exceptionalism then my review would be different, but they weren’t.  There really wasn’t much flag waving at all (unlike the original), but instead there was a message that guerrilla tactics and small, coordinated attacks against an invading army were the moral imperative of civilians facing an invading army, regardless of their motivations.

And no, I’m not reading into things.  These are similar to statements made in the movie.  In the REMAKE OF RED DAWN.  What the hell?!  

Either way, it’s great and worth watching....and arguably says something more fundamentally important about war and human nature than anything that will win an Oscar this year.  Go figure.

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