by Michael Mottern

Movie Review: Red Dawn –> “How a Kid of the Cold War can teach an entire class on this historic action film starring that Dirty Dancing duo, Patrick Swayze & Jennifer Gray, plus Charlie Sheen and countless other recognizable stars.”

Red Dawn, the 1984 version, is one of my all-time favorite action movies. As a “Kid of the Cold War,” this movie seemed very realistic for its time, and after watching it with my grandmother when I was six (or maybe seven), I now hope it didn’t bring back bad memories from her past. She. after all, was smack dab in the middle of it, as a 7-year-old during the Soviet invasion of Estonia in 1940, the beginning of Stalin’s regime in the Baltic after the Hitler-Stalin Pact ended. 

The film is very good, not because it’s done well or even made with a high budget ($17 million to be exact). However as Charlie Blakemore, a social liberal buddy of mine from Dartmouth Film School told me when I was in high school, the film was “b*******!!”. Charlie, an intellectual, a film critic, and a person with a bias who did not have a personal connection with the Soviet Union like I did, tend to think in ways opposite from me, although none of us are like old Cold Warriors like my father.  Charlie, like most social liberals, is not overly concerned about the issues of the Cold War and the awesome power of the Soviet Union and the million dollar question of the movie: could the Russian motherland with the help of the Cuban and Nicaraguan armies actually invade the US? That by far is well conceived, especially in the brief historical introduction before the famous parachute scene. With the help of a good soundtrack, Red Dawn comes ‘parachuting’ into our living rooms with a genuine Russian invasion that comes across as very realistic. 

After Gorbachev (a reformer) came to power, US/Soviet tension started to fizzle away. But in 1983-84 because of the US and Soviet nuclear arsenal, the Doomsday Clock was closer to midnight, so Red Dawn was the perfect film for the US and Hollywood at that time. Not because of the lack of historical evidence, but the fact that it was all too real by 1984 standards. When talking to Marxists,  neo-Marxist and some social liberals like Charlie, they all immediately say the same thing: “Well it never happened…” The fact that any such invasion didn’t happen is by far a miracle unto itself, considering what could have happened during the Cuban Missile Crisis and in West Berlin during the Cold War. We saw it in the hawkish policies of Reagan administration in the early years of the 1980s, when Reagan remilitarized Western Europe with nuclear weapons in West Germany. 

When I say I could teach an entire class on this film, it’s not about the cinematography but about the historical realism of it – the introduction of the movie is a real treat! The beginning of the movie starts with a pretty cool soundtrack, and an introduction that reads like cold war manuscript. The movie’s intro:

1. “Soviet Union suffers from the worst famine in 75 years.” 

2. “Labor riots and food shortages in Poland.” 

3. “Cuban and Nicaraguan armies reach troop strengths up to 500,000.”

4. “Mexico plunges into revolution.” 

5. “Greens take over parliament in Western Germany and demands all US missiles withdraw from European soil.” 

6. “NATO dissolves! United States stands alone.”

Other than the part about the Greens taking over Parliament in Germany and NATO dissolving, the introduction sounded very historically accurate and in some parts very scary and familiar. The US was hated in Nicaragua due to its backing of the Somoza dynasty, with the Sandanistas subsequently turning to the Soviets. In Germany, as we know, the Berlin Wall came tumbling down and the Solidarity union arose in Poland.

Directed by John Milius, I give the movie an A+ for historical accuracy, and award it 4 stars out of 5 as a great action film!! I would refer it to all my friends and family. The movie is rated PG-13 and because of violence may not be suitable for younger viewers

Michael Mottern is Vice Chair of Social Democrats USA.

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