Synopsis: In Red Dawn, a city in Washington state awakens to the surreal sight of foreign paratroopers dropping from the sky – shockingly, the U.S. has been invaded and their hometown is the initial target. Quickly and without warning, the citizens find themselves prisoners and their town under enemy occupation. Determined to fight back, a group of young patriots seek refuge in the surrounding woods, training and reorganizing themselves into a guerilla group of fighters. Taking inspiration from their high school mascot, they call themselves the Wolverines, banding together to protect one another, liberate their town from its captors, and take back their freedom.
Release Date: November 21, 2012 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Action, War
The original Red Dawn (1984) starred some fresh faces that went on to gain popularity as film and TV stars, many of whom are still working today. It was the culmination of Cold War fears wrapped under the guise of an escapist teen fantasy. This year’s Red Dawn, a pseudo-remake, abandons many of the important elements of the original, and turns the proceedings into a hollow action film that feigns significance in the face of teen death and destruction.
Like in the original, the story of Red Dawn focuses on brothers Jed and Matt Eckert (Chris Hemsworth and Josh Peck), whose suburban Washington town is invaded by North Korean tanks, artillery, and foot soldiers. Rather than take part in the makeshift internment camps or serve as North Korean sympathizers, Jed and Matt mount their own resistance, made up primarily of high schoolers (or at least young adults made up to look like teens). They take on the moniker of ‘Wolverines’ – one of the few odes to the original – and cause all kinds of chaos for the North Korean “army,” and more importantly serve as a symbol for the resistance.
The plot mostly deals in the forming and training of the Wolverines, which due to some awkward pacing makes it seem like uninitiated teenagers become crack snipers in a matter of days. But even while Jed, a solider back from Afghanistan, trains his makeshift troop and sends them out on missions the film never lets the audience forget these are young kids, which in some ways works and in others completely derails the film.
In the 1984 original, there was a lot of death to go around; characters of supreme significance are tossed to the wayside in an effort to illuminate the gravity of war, even domestic war. In that regard, Red Dawn does carry on the spirit of its predecessor, making it feel like each character is disposable, even if some are more important than others.
On the other hand, the film goes through some pretty stereotypical story beats, provides each character a moment to shine, makes sure that each of the major character has a love interest, and gives them a redeeming scene before their untimely death. It’s formulaic to say the least and makes the entire film come across as a calculated construction – a safe bet. The film even gives a face to the villain, provides a goal for the Wolverines, and constantly throws wrenches into initial plans – it’s by the numbers action filmmaking at its most basic.
There are parts of Red Dawn that are enjoyable, but an over reliance on adhering to a formula muddies those worthwhile elements to the point you forget they even existed by the film’s lackluster, but seemingly uplifting, ending. It competently introduces a few likeable characters, and puts genuine threats on their lives, but when each is a walking archetype it’s hard to drudge up any emotion as they are tossed by the wayside. The film is awkwardly paced, struggles to say anything poignant, and wastes an intriguing concept.
Even though Red Dawn doesn’t work as a whole, due in large part to its generic nature, the action is surprisingly solid for a film of this caliber. The construction of set pieces, while not awe-inspiring or inventive, conveys the gritty nature of guerilla warfare well, and is filled with a cavalcade of bombastic explosions. The initial North Korean invasion is a particularly exciting sequence, and sets the film’s premise up nicely.
Unfortunately, a lot of that action gets lost in the film’s extremely shaky camerawork. Although it’s unclear whether the shaky cam was in service of preserving some shoddy set decoration or was meant to convey the sense the audience is “in the battle, it is distracting nonetheless. At times it is even difficult to discern basic logistics, to figure out where each character is relative to one another.
On the one hand the action has its moments, and fuels some otherwise dull proceedings, but the camerawork undermines that excitement nearly every step of the way. It is bad enough that we’re struggling to care about these characters, but struggling to find them amidst the gunfire and explosions just makes for an incoherent mess.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Dan Bradley
- Screenwriter(s): Carl EllsworthJeremy Passmore
- Cast: Chris Hemsworth (Jed)Adrianne Palicki (Toni)Josh Hutcherson (Robert) Josh Peck (Matt)Isabel Lucas (Erica)Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Col. Andy Tanner)Connor Cruise (Daryl Jenkins)Edwin Hodge (Danny)
- Cinematographer: Mitchell Amundsen
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score: Ramin Djawadi
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA