Red Dawn

RED DAWN. Starring Chris Hemsworth, Josh Peck, Josh Hutcherson, Brett Cullen, Connor Cruise, Steve Lenz, Adrianne Palicki, and Isabel Lucas. Directed by Dan Bradley. Rated M (Violence and coarse language). 93 min.

This American film is a remake of the teen-soldier drama of the same name, which was released in 2008 and made by another director.

The film is about a group of young people, who arm themselves to defend the US from a North Korean invasion. In the film, the invading army was changed from Chinese to North Korean, presumably for marketing reasons and to obviously not offend China.

US Marine, Jed Eckhert (Chris Hemsworth) has been bruised emotionally in Iraq, and he returns home from military duty to his family in Spokane, Washington, US. There, he reunites with his father, Police Sergeant, Tom Echkert (Brett Cullen) and his football-playing little brother, Matt (Josh Peck). Following a power breakdown that occurs one night, they are all shocked to find that North Korean paratroopers are suddenly invading their hometown. Jed and Matt take teenagers, Robert (Josh Hutcherson), Daryl (Connor Cruise), Pete (Steve Lenz) and others to hide in the Eckhert’s family cabin in the woods.

Hidden in the woods, Jed announces to the group that he wants to fight for freedom, and the others decide to join him. They call themselves “The Wolverines” after their football team. They acquire weapons, train themselves for fighting, and begin their assault on the alien forces. They learn that the Russian-supported North Koreans are planning to launch an electromagnetic pulse weapon to cripple the US military, and the tracking device for it is concealed in a suitcase, which they steal. Firm in their resolve, The Wolverines create an active resistance force. Many of them are killed along the way, and the film ends with The Wolverines deciding to continue their efforts to fight the foreign invaders. Romantic interest is supplied by Toni (Adrianne Palicki) and Erica (Isabel Lucas), who link up with Jed and Matt.

Using popular teen models, like Chris Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson, fresh from Thor (2011) and The Hunger Games (2012), respectively, this movie raises racial issues, and embeds its violence mostly in a body count that fortunately stays away from gruesome detail and copious blood-spilling. There are the usual messages about the importance of teen-bonding, military togetherness under pressure, individual empowerment, and the significance of always defending what one believes in, but the film has a strong propaganda element to it throughout. This is a movie that defines the fight against a Communist invasion as a necessary one at any cost, and it pointedly stirs up resentment, especially if the enemy is Asian or coloured. It is not a movie that promotes mutual understanding in any way between people from different cultures. Only one of the invading forces is given a name, the villains are silly enough to be thwarted by a force named after a US football team who suddenly become war warriors, and the movie boosts American pride constantly.

It is not realistic to see Jed’s hometown in Seattle as the strategic centre of anything of military importance, and the real focus is on the spirit shown by American teenagers, who see their country as under threat from foreign invasion. There is the occasional excitement in the skirmishes, but the movie basically joins teenage indulgence with right-wing fantasy. One can be forgiven at times, for thinking the film is all about serious war-action. It is more a series of successive stunt pieces with multiple explosions and fast-paced car chases that look military in character.

This is a patriotically intense film that tries to survive with lines thought to have strongly nationalistic teenage-appeal, like: “Go to war, or die trying…Marines don’t die…(and)…when you’re fighting for your family, it all makes a little sense”. Weighed down with such heavy scripting, the film only sporadically entertains.

Peter W. Sheehan is associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.

Roadshow Films.

Out 6th. December, 2012.