I’m glad I waited almost 30 years to see the movie, “Red Dawn.”
For years, I’ve been curious about Hollywood’s treatment of vintage 1980s Cold War paranoia. In the movie, reds from Russia, Cuba and Nicaragua conduct a conventional blitzkrieg-like invasion of the United States. The Russkies attack across the Bering Straits, invade Alaska, we’re told, and cut off the pipeline from the rest of the US. Meanwhile, Cubans and Nicaraguans slip across the border as illegal aliens to infiltrate our country and enable invasion north from Mexico.
A few minutes into the movie during a history class, the commies parachute onto a high school campus, gun down a teacher without provocation, and start machine-gunning the students, apparently on the premise that the only good American is a dead American. A Cuban (or maybe Nicaraguan; if you’ve seen one commie, you’ve seen them all) officer disagrees with his Russian commander about killing everyone in sight on the premise that it creates more enemies than it kills. But the Russian commander insists that the commies treat the US just the way they treat Afghanistan.
In a scene reminiscent of World War II movies, the bad guys line up civilian men and gun them down for no apparent reason. A half-dozen teenagers grab some hunting ammo and somehow lots of grenades and fight back as insurgents. Since the Russkies can’t tell the civilians from the combatants, they take a shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later approach, apparently on the premise that the civilians deserve to die for not being able to prove they’re not supporting the insurgents. In one scene a dead American, gun in hand, lies near his truck with a bumper sticker warning they will have to pry his gun from his cold, dead fingers.
In typical Hollywood fashion, the teenagers with zero combat training somehow wipe out dozens, if not hundreds, of well-trained professional commie soldiers. For some reason, the commies never have access to grenades, but the teenagers have lots of them.
Along with RPGs. I’d never heard that expression until early in the Iraq war. Like the real Iraqi insurgents 20 years later, the fictional teenagers use this weapon again and again to fight the foreign invaders.
After capturing a Russian soldier, the teens try to torture the truth out of him. When one of them asks how killing a prisoner is different from the behavior of the Russians, the teen leader explains he didn’t invade their country, they invaded his. Then he shoots the unarmed prisoner.
Toward the end the Latino commie becomes totally disillusioned. After years of having been an insurgent himself, he comes to understand the futility of relying solely on brute force, refuses to fight any longer and lets two of the teen insurgents get away. The movie ends with a plaque honoring the American heroes who sacrificed their lives to protect their country from the foreign invaders.
In this era when people are proud to live in “red” states, I wonder if it has dawned upon those Reagan-era moviemakers how ironic their movie has become today.