Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what movies I’ve seen over the past week. Below, you will find short reviews of those movies along with a star rating. Full length reviews may come at a later date.
So, here is what I watched this past week:
In the midst of the Cold War, tensions between the USSR and the United States were incredibly high. Learning how to find and seek safety in bomb shelters was common school practice alongside tornado and other emergency drills. Fear of nuclear annihilation was ever-present and constant strife in nearby nations like Nicaragua and Cuba gripped the nation. Red Dawn gave voice to those fears by positing what would happen if Russia, with the help of the South American nations that despised the U.S. were to launch an assault on the U.S. and take control of a large portion of it.
Starring Patrick Swayze alongside a handful of notable 1980s stars (then and future) like Charlie Sheen, C. Thomas Howell, Lea Thompson, and Jennifer Grey, the film followed the story of a group of High Schoolers in Calumet, Colorado as they witness an unthinkable invasion and stage an insurrection against the occupying forces. The first film to receive a PG-13 rating, Red Dawn put the isolation and threat of World War III into the background to focus on how youth in the nation might be able to respond to the burgeoning threat of Communist infiltration of America.
Oscar-nominated Apocalypse Now scribe John Milius directed and co-wrote the screenplay for the film, which was a hit in 1984 where it made $38 million, which would be roughly $101 million in 2017 dollars. 28 years later, a remake of the film was released and this re-watch (I haven’t seen the film since it came out in the mid-80s and I was fairly young at the time) is intended to prep me for a comparison of the 2012 version starring Chris Hemsworth.
The opening theme is a terrific piece of music composed by Basil Poledouris, though the rest of the score isn’t particularly memorable. The film itself is poorly-acted (Harry Dean Stanton acts to the rafters as an example) and heavily contrived, but acts as a sort of time capsule for American sensibilities in the mid-80s. There are some rousing images and triumphal sequences that engage the audience’s hopes fears, but it doesn’t resort solely to cheap theatrics or rah-rah patriotism. Its approach to American exceptionalism is abrasive at times without being excessively superficial. It’s most fascinating to look back on it with 30 years of hindsight to create the perfect viewing platform.