Friday, 8 March 2013

Review: Red Dawn (2012)

Red Dawn (2012)
Dir: Dan Bradley
Cert 15 / Running time 114 mins

Finally seeing the light of day (this was filmed in 2009) Red Dawn imagines a scenario where North Korea brings bloody terror to America's doorstep. As most people will likely know, its a remake of the 1984 movie starring people from pretty much every important movie of the 80's. That movie wasn't exactly dynamite at the time nor is it a tale that really needed updating, but hey. We're bought up to speed by a multimedia show at the start of the movie, full of news clips and sound-bites, engineered to paint a picture of a North Korea primed to attack America. For those that scoff at such a reality (as I did myself), pause to consider today's news. Timing is everything. 

The focus is on a small town in Washington as opposed to a large scale epic of how the war is fought on a global stage. The opening attack featuring the enemy planes dropping troops onto Desperate Houswives' suburbia is effective and jarring. From here, it's down to a group of teenagers to begin the resistance.

Pure disgusted at how long it took Red Dawn to be relased
The teenagers in question are led by Chris Hemsworth, who works well as Jed Eckert, veteran and older brother to Matt (played by Josh Peck - even though I couldn't help wondering if he was the milkman's based on lack of shared physical genes). Jed's training and experiences kick in as soon as they attack begins. There are plenty of moments intended to deliver an emotional punch, some hit the target (Eckert senior communicating to his boys through a loud-haler) some miss the target, but what Red Dawn majors on is action. Red Dawn is directed by Dan Bradley, the man who energised the Bourne movies by delivering fresh, raw stunts and fight sequences. This is no small feat - the Bourne movies are now regarded as intelligent, visceral action movies and it served as a catalyst for action movies in general as they clamoured to be more "Bourne-like" (even Bond owes it's new direction to the path Bradley's work laid out).

"Martha, those kids are up to no good, I know it!"
I think if there was a reason this film needed to be made it's because teenagers are getting a bad reputation for being horrifically vacuous, whether they're American or not. It's the age of X-Factor and you can't be blamed for feeling utter despair at the parade of fame-hungry zeroes and idiots masquerading as teenage human beings in the media. Red Dawn attempts to combat this by showing a group of teenagers that get to grips with some pretty heavy shit. They're out of their depth but learn how to fight back and shoulder responsibility, and for that, the film is worth commending.

In all, this is actually a pretty decent film and most involved now have a new calling card. Connor Cruise gives a sweet, understated performance and puts a great case across for being known as Connor Cruise the actor and not Connor Cruise, son of Tom. Hemsworth steps up to the plate to give another likeable turn. Personally though, I feel the real credit goes to Bradley. Because of Bradley, the movie is better than it would have otherwise been; the action is the best thing about Red Dawn. There's not oodles of it, its just effective when it happens. How much better would A Good Day to Die Hard have been had Bradley been in charge...?

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