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Movie Review | Thrilling ‘Red Dawn’ is barely believable

Published: Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, November 28, 2012 08:11


Drawing from current events to create a dystopian alternative reality, Dan Bradley creates a world in “Red Dawn” that proves both exciting and disappointingly immature. An explosive, fast-paced flick that touches on themes of national pride and modern vulnerability, this movie may not have been boring, but it wasn’t smart either. Basically, it’s exactly what viewers would look for in this sort of film.

“Red Dawn,” a remake of the 1984 film of the same name, follows a group of young adults in Spokane, Washington whose town is overtaken by North Korean troops in a massive invasion of North America. The film provides context in a newsreel in the opening credits. It explains the conditions of North Korea and its invasions of neighboring Asian countries. It also includes well-placed clips of President Obama and other modern public figures discussing this international threat, which is very helpful in introducing the viewer to this cinematographic world. Spokane is portrayed as an American town generic enough that any viewer feels this invasion could happen to them, which makes the film feel personal.

Josh Peck stars as Matt Eckert, a high school student who lives with his police chief father in suburban Spokane. Peck has come a very long way in the past 10 years and the viewer is able to take him seriously, despite his former fame on Nickelodeon shows. He aptly portrays his character’s brotherly competition and his love for his beautiful girlfriend, Erica (Isabel Lucas). His brother, Jed, played by Chris Hemsworth, is a strong, brave Marine who recently returned home. Jed’s useful expertise and powerful speeches inspire the high school kids to rally up against the Koreans. This character is especially believable, albeit corny. In fact, it now is almost impossible to imagine Hemsworth playing any other sort of person. The women in the film, although resourceful and strong themselves, are portrayed mainly as girlfriends. This is a shallow, unfortunate inclusion.

Josh Hutcherson of “The Hunger Games” (2012) fame is also featured in “Red Dawn.” Here, he is a naive, average kid who shows how quickly one can become trained like a marine when the situation calls for it. Reality gets stretched here, as the plot asserts that a group of teens spending a few weeks in the woods practicing weaponry and hand-to-hand combat will have enough skills to take on a trained army. The guerrilla warfare tactics of the film are suspenseful and exhilarating. While they are sometimes ridiculous, they don’t detract too much from the film, even if they include the use of a skateboard bomb.

Borrowing even the names of characters from the original film, as well as all of the major themes and plot points, “Red Dawn” still manages to be somewhat fresh and new, and the movie generally does not feel like a stale repeat. Although some have deemed the replacement of the USSR with Koreans silly and irresponsible, this changed plot point helps the film play to the fact that Korea has proven to be an unpredictable contemporary armed nation. 

The urban Washington setting provides an excellent backdrop and the war zone it becomes during the film is depicted incredibly well and believably. Gunfights and explosions in the middle of the city are done well enough that they draw the viewer into the movie. Importantly, the complacency of many citizens and inability for characters to communicate with each other effectively regarding the crisis draws the viewer’s attention to the question of what might happen if something like this were to actually occur.

“Red Dawn” is a fun and exciting film that will please those looking for action-filled entertainment, engrossing characters and a plot that does not grow tired. Although a little absurd at times and too reliant on the theme of youths taking down “The Man,” this movie is very enjoyable and successfully immerses the viewer after he or she manages to suspend disbelief.

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