The 1980s classic invasion movie, Red Dawn is a strange beast. While it rightfully ranks up there with Top Gun as one of the most iconic and remembered movies of its generation, I found it had some fundamental issues. And no, it’s not anything dealing with the actual premise.
The production values are very good. The acting is, at the very least, sufficient. Yet the movie’s biggest problem is its conflicting tone. There’s two types of invasion stories, what I call “grim invasion” and “pulpy invasion”. Grim invasion is what most of the original invasion novels were, while pulpy invasion is something out of, well, guess.
Red Dawn sort of awkwardly teeters between elements of both without really settling into one or the other. While not a deal-breaker for the movie, it sours it somewhat and leaves me with the feeling that picking one type, likely pulpy given the concept, would have made for a better story. That being said, the film is still well worth a watch.
4 thoughts on “A Thousand Words: Red Dawn”
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I think this plays into what’s the biggest issue with Red Dawn for me. It always feels like the movie’s shuffling from scene to scene and the narrative never builds up enough momentum. The biggest example I can think of is the “Wolverines” montage, where we see the protagonists on a number of raids and the movie almost becomes light and action-y, but then it starts veering back to the grim overtones as the Soviets become serious about hunting them down, and the cast starts to get whittled down. It all gives me a very start-stop feeling in a movie that otherwise I’d want to like for its superb prop craftsmanship and attention to detail.
Even as a regular reader, I’m not sure what you’re getting at here. Some examples would help.
Ah, NVM. WP helpfully suggested your Invasion Fiction page:
Interesting, never really looked at Red Dawn that way, whether it’s “grim invasion” (“message” or “warning” fiction) or “pulpy invasion” (entertainment).
I’ve always viewed Red Dawn as survivalist war entertainment aiming for sufficient verisimilitude to please its audience. I was really into preparedness at the time, and I never viewed Soviet invasion as a serious threat.
I’m glad it didn’t go entirely “grim”. Message fiction tends to not age well. The movie “Traffic” comes to mind. Widely talked-about in its time for its grim take on the drug trade, and now mostly forgotten.
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Fun fact, Red Dawn was the very first movie rated PG-13.