This is a remake of the 1984 film that was itself not critically acclaimed, but was still a guilty pleasure, as is this one. Of course it’s not very believable. But it will get your patriotic juices flowing, and in an election month that can’t be all bad.
In the 1984 version, also set in the Pacific Northwest, we are suddenly invaded by Russian troops. A group of high-schoolers runs into the woods and begins a guerrilla movement, which gains momentum by its very audacity, even among a cowed populace.
In the 2012 version, the invaders are North Koreans, but with Russian advisers (never mind the political unlikelihood of that). It’s a World War II type of army that parachutes down, soldiers carrying rifles, using tanks and grenades. After they’ve taken over the town from the stunned civilian police, they begin setting up roadblocks and “informational meetings” to subdue the hapless townsfolk. Not a drone in sight. Or a smart bomb. Or nukes, either. Much less a computer.
But never mind the archaic military technology. The point is that these kids (OK, not all of them look like teenagers because they aren’t) must somehow find the courage within themselves to be the resistance. That means, rather than doing everything decently and in order, they must become the force of chaos and disruption. They do whatever they can to make the occupiers’ work more difficult. And they’re wondering what happened to our own vaunted military machine, which, it seems, was rendered ineffective by some kind of electronic interference device.
Our precious little band of adolescent desperados must undergo some physical rigors together, as well as psychological deprivation. They have to learn to hide in the shadows, and to be suddenly and remorselessly violent. They have to struggle with deciding who’s in charge, and who has the authority to discipline the group. They have to deal with traitors and the weak-willed, but worst of all, they have to accept not only “collateral” damage but also casualties within their beloved core group, in the name of serving the greater cause of freedom.
Of course, we’d love to think that we all have this kind of remarkable fighting spirit, but more than that, we’d love for our enemies to be so recognizable and available. Here, the bad guys are conveniently arrayed in the town square, and wearing uniforms. Who wouldn’t like to have a go at them? Alas, in “real life” in 2012, the true terrorists are not nearly so accessible. But we can fantasize, can’t we?
Well, yes, and “Red Dawn” is definitely a wave-the-flag-proudly kind of fantasy, a guilty pleasure which many of us would pay the price of admission to enjoy.
Ronald P. Salfen is minister of St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church in Irving, Texas.