The Daily Cup 56 Red Dawn

Welcome to The Daily Cup a movie blog/writing project by Kyle B. Dekker, presented by Hot Chocolate Media. You can read series concept here. The basic rules, Kyle must watch 365 movies in 2018 and write about all of them. 292 of them have to be movies he's never seen before. Thanks for reading.

Revisiting films from your childhood with is always interesting. You bring a new worldview based on years of experience to a piece of entertainment you simply have a memory of enjoying. Some films hold up, and other fall flat. Red Dawn (1984) is a film that I loved as a child. 10 year old me was thrilled to to see a bunch of kids fighting commie bastards on American soil, and winning. It easy for pre-teen me to put myself in their shoes, completely clueless to the realities of war, death, and survival. This is a movie that is a product of its own time and of a filmmaker we may never see the likes of again (for for and bad).

Red Dawn still.jpg

For the uninitiated Red Dawn is the story of an alternate 1980s world history. NATO dissolves, Mexico has a communist revolution, and the Soviet Union along with Nicaraguan and Cuban allies invade the united states. World War Three breaks out and it is mostly a conventional war, fought on US soil. The story focuses around a group of high school kids who become guerilla fighters in the area around their hometown of Calumet, Colorado. This is basically the movie everyone thinks First Blood is; jingoistic, anti-communist, and soulessly violent.

Purely as a film this is an action movie. We have the good guys, The Wolverines (named after the mascot of their high school) versus the commies. There are explosions, tanks, machine guns, and enough machismo to start your own Axe Body spray factory. The pacing is solid, and the action scenes are well executed. The score by Basil Poledouris is fantastic and the best thing in the movie. The child guerilla fighters aren’t very well developed and come across as a two dimensional. So much to the point that when they die in the story, you don’t feel much for them. They are agents of violence in the story and never characters you connect to. The only characters in the film with any real depth are Ron O’Neal as Ernesto Bella, the Cuban military commander tasked with defeating the Wolverines. His past as a partisan fighter versus a powerful regime is a point of internal conflict. He is now the oppressor, fighting those defending their own land. The other character is Lieutenant Colonel Andy Tanner played extremely well by Powers Boothe. Tanner is an Air Force pilot who crashes and is rescued by the children fighters. He joins them for a while till he is killed in a battle. His is the only death I mourned in the film. For me this was because he was the only character who saw the futility of war and the dehumanizing effect it was having on the children, yet he was powerless to stop it.

Doing my research for this film I was shocked it was originally written as a staunch anti-war film, with elements of Lord of the Flies. The final John Milius product is a pale image from that, instead selling a right-wing gun fantasy of battles versus bloodthirsty communists. It is obvious Milius was in love with the legend’s of American frontiersman like Jedediah Smith and Jed Carson, and made his own modern anti-communist interpretation of it. There are hints of the anti-war roots of this movie with the Andy Tanner character, but most of it is lost in Milius child war macho-fantasy.

This film should be watched as a time capsule. A time when the enemies of America were perceived as obvious and the solutions simple. The biggest threat to our children in high school were Russians with assault weapons, and the solution was armed resistance from our citizens. Now we know the biggest threat to high school students is fellow citizens armed with assault weapons, empowered by a government backed by Russians.


Movies new to me watched: 45/292

Other movies: 11/73

Total movies watched: 56/365

Have your own thoughts or opinions on this movie? Comment below or contact Kyle at or on Twitter at @kbdekker.