RED DAWN (1984) - ***
There is a shot in RED DAWN focusing upn a car's bumper sticker: "They can have my gun when they pry it from my cold, dead fingers." We then cut to a Soviet paratrooper pulling a Colt revolver from a dead man's grip. Either writer/director and NRA supporter John Milius has a sense of humor or its a serious scene that fails, I always get a laugh out of it.
What is known now is that the whole premise of RED DAWN is based on a fallacy of its epoch. We didn't learn until after the Cold War that the Russians didn't have the military or economical capacity to fully invade and occupy America in the 1980s. Plus, America's geographical isolation makes any invasion by a foreign power utterly impossible, but that doesn't matter.
DAWN's scheme is a fantasy what-if in the tradition of John Steinbeck's THE MOON IS DOWN and a exploratory tale of resistance inspired by the reality-based THE BATTLE OF ALGIERS. People simply dismiss this film as stupid ideological paranoia from the Reagan Decade. Where were these people when the RAMBO sequels were insanely popular?
With the plot being the Soviets invading America and high school kids becoming guerilla fighters, it should have been pretty damn stupid and absurd, except this is John Milius we're talking about here.
He help scripted APOCALYPSE NOW. He shot the awesomeness that is CONAN THE BARBARIAN, and he inspired John Goodman's character in THE BIG LEBOWSKI. He aint a moronic flag-waver like Michael Bay.
Now I don't agree with many of Milius' politics. I prefer to keep firearms from the hands of idiots who treat them like toys, and certainly some moments in RED DAWN seem to be his thematic argument against gun control. But what I do dig is his small touches in what is otherwise a decent action movie.
Take the Cuban Colonel. As a member of the Soviet occupation authority, he seems to understand why they're being beaten by kids, which his Russian superiors want to hear nothing of it. Just like Col. Mathieu in THE BATTLE OF ALGIERS, he's a former partisan fighter that is now the imperialist opposition of an insurgency...and he's disillusioned by it.
We never see such compelling communist baddies in the RAMBO pictures.
Then there are Milius' references to history from the Rocky Mountain landscape evoking intentional Deja vu feelings of Afghanistan to the town's cooperation this side of Vichy France.
Other nice stuff include Powers Boothe as the downed American pilot who gives a chilling assessment of this Third World War, which no viewer ever forgets, to the Russian counter-attack against these Wolverines that's surprisingly intelligent.
Ultimately I guess I liked RED DAWN because I enjoyed seeing Milius taking these materialistic and selfish kids of America and making them into soldiers fighting for a cause beyond shopping malls and crappy pop music, though apparently some folks took it too seriously and missed the whole point.
When American occupation forces of Iraq captured Saddam Hussein in 2003, the seizure operation was called Operation Red Dawn. The Pentagon claims the codename was a coincidence and that we have not become the Cuban Colonel.