“From legendary writer-director John Milius (Apocalypse Now, Conan The Barbarian) comes the tale of what-could-have-been, had the Cold War gone another way.
When Communist paratroopers descend on a Colorado high school football field, a group of the school’s students wages an all-out guerilla war to save their town — and their country. Featuring an all-star cast, including Patrick Swayze (Road House), Charlie Sheen (Platoon), Lea Thompson (Back To The Future), C. Thomas Howell (The Outsiders), Jennifer Grey (Dirty Dancing), Powers Boothe (Tombstone) and Harry Dean Stanton (Alien), Red Dawn “comes up like thunder” (New York Post)!”
Red Dawn follows a group of high school kids who are thrust into an enormous role of responsibility as they are some of the only people to escape a surprise Communist invasion on their small Colorado town. During the initial confusion of this invasion, this group of kids, relatively unknown to one another save for two brothers, gear up in a truck-full of supplies and head to the mountains for safety. After weeks of no contact with the outside world or any news of their families and loved ones, the group decides to make the trek into town to check things out.
While there they discover an oppressed community by an occupied foreign enemy. People who are believed could be trouble, gun owners, are all rounded up into camps, while the rest of the community try to continue with their day-to-day lives while in complete fear. The group learns they are wanted by the KGB, that their fathers are either dead or imprisoned, and are told never to come back to town. After learning this horrific information, the group decides that they can’t sit around waiting for their government to fight back the invaders; they must do it themselves.
Coming of Age films were popular in the 80’s, but instead of a weekend in detention, or waiting for a date to the prom, these kids had to learn to kill. Their first encounter is clumsy, frightening, but necessary to propel them into who they need to become while living in occupied America. While Red Dawn may be incredibly inspiring and a symbol of national pride, it is this heartbreaking change in these kids that make Red Dawn so memorable. These kids have to travel a road filled with death and destruction, loss of their home, their freedom, but this is a journey to find out who doesn’t lose themselves in the process. War changes them, and the stark realization that they aren’t invincible like many teens believe themselves to be begins to set in as these harsh truths of war take a devastating toll, which lead them down a dark path from which most of them cannot return.
One of the most impressive things about the film is the cast. Although they are all still relatively young and inexperienced, they all hold their own with seasoned actors whom they share scenes with. Knowing the history of what they go on to do is incredibly interesting, as is the fact that a romance between Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey was originally supposed to be included in the screenplay but was cut, this taking place only a few short year before Dirty Dancing. Also impressive is the set design, with attention to detail so precise that the CIA showed up on set to demand to know where they got these foreign military vehicles and tanks.
One thing that I do believe the film lacks is proper character development for all the kids. There is some mention of something tragic happening to Lea Thompson’s character, but we never find out what that is or how she is using that to find strength. Her character also has an interest in Powers Boothe’s character, which had more of an in-depth exploration but was cut out. These are only a few small details that would have rounded out the characters and made them much more enjoyable and relatable. All we really know from any of them is their previous innocence, and how that innocence is lost. Finding ways to connect the audience to those specific characters and not ones that could be any interchangeable teenager would have made the film much richer.
Although many may see Red Dawn as a pure action film that inspires patriotism, I find it to be an incredibly dark journey of the realities of war. The juxtaposition of the group at the beginning of the film and at the end of the film show just how far these kids have come and how different they are. These kids have to grow up so quickly, and become desensitized to the horrific acts they are carrying out, and despite this being a fictional story, the horrors of war are real, and not something to be cheered on and celebrated, but recognized for what it is.
Red Dawn is presented in 1080p High Definition Widescreen 1.85:1. The print is in relatively good condition. Grain is at a manageable level which stays consistent to the original release, with good color levels. There are some minor scratches and defects throughout the film, along with some stock footage which is in terrible shape. It doesn’t look like this print was cleaned up at all for the release, and looks to be the same as the older blu-ray release.
The audio is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. The track sounds pretty good, with some good work of the surrounds during the gun-battles. The score is one of the best things about the track, and it sounds great.
Shout Factory normally puts out some great extras with their releases, however, this one seems to be a bit of an exception. Pretty much the only thing added by Shout is a featurette with one of the kids, Doug Toby, as well as the Casting Director, Production Designed and Editor. Although this is a rather lengthy featurette running 70 minutes, this isn’t the same caliber of special features we are accustomed to. The set does contain archival featurettes which contain the majority of the interesting information with all the key actors and the director himself.
Regardless of the disappointment, you learn some great information from all of it, including some of the weird eccentricities of the director. Also on this set you’re going to see:
- NEW “A Look Back At Red Dawn” – A 70 Minute Feature Including Brand-New Stories From Co-Star Doug Toby, Casting Director Jane Jenkins, Production Designer Jackson DeGovia And Editor Thom Noble
- Archival Featurette: “Red Dawn Rising”
- Archival Featurette: “Training For WWIII”
- Archival Featurette: “Building The Red Menace”
- Archival Featurette: “WWIII Comes To Town”
- Original Theatrical Trailer
Regardless of the lack of new things added to this release, fans of the film who have never owned this or want to upgrade from the DVD will want to pick this up for sure. The Shout Select series is coming out with some great stuff, and Red Dawn is definitely worthy of being included.