Title: Red Dawn
Director: Dan Bradley
Starring: Chris Hemsworth (‘Thor: The Dark World’), Arianne Palicki (‘G.I. Joe: Retaliation,’ TV’s Friday Night Lights’), Josh Hutcherson (‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’), Josh Peck (TV’s ‘Josh and Drake,’ ‘ATM’) Jeffrey Dean Morgan (‘Watchmen,’ TV’s ‘Supernatural’) and Connor Cruise (‘Seven Pounds’)
Combing realistic action sequences and stunts committed by characters driven by their humanity and emotions and setting them against the backdrop of potential political turmoil in a suspenseful film is a taunting task for many directors. That’s particularly true when the film is a remake of a beloved movie from an earlier generation and is being helmed by a first-time filmmaker. But helmer Dan Bradley, who made his feature film directorial debut with the upcoming action remake ‘Red Dawn’ after serving as the stunt coordinator on such action films as ‘The Bourne Ultimatum’ and ‘Spider-Man 3,’ respectfully incorporated true character development into a clever effects-driven film.
‘Red Dawn’ follows Jed Eckert (played by Chris Hemsworth) upon returning home to Spokane, Washington on a leave from the Marines, as he reunites with his younger brother, Matt (portrayed by Josh Peck), and their father, Tom (played by Brett Cullen). Since Matt would rather spend time with his girlfriend, Erica (portrayed by Isabel Lucas), then with Jed, as he still blames his older brother for leaving him after their mother died, Jed reunites with an old childhood friend, Toni (played by Adrianne Palicki). But the group quickly learns to bonds when the U.S. is invaded by North Korea. Without warning, the city finds itself prisoner under enemy occupation.
Jed then takes on the leadership role with Matt, Erica, Toni and several of their other friends, including tech geek Robert (portrayed by Josh Hutcherson); Daryl (played by Connor Cruise), the son of Spokane’s Mayor and Robert’s best friend; and Danny (portrayed by Edwin Hodge), Matt’s best friend and the star receiver of the high school football team. Taking inspiration from their high school mascot, the group calls themselves the Wolverines, and band together to protect each other, liberate their town from its captors and take back their freedom. Along the way, the Wolverines are helped by Col. Andy Tanner (played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and his men, who are just as determined to save America.
Bradley cleverly created well-developed, emotional characters alongside impressive stunts in his updated version of ‘Red Dawn.’ While the director didn’t have as large of a budget for his action reboot as other films he has worked on, such as the ‘Bourne’ series, he was still able to include suspense-filled, surprising sequences alongside his strongly character-driven story. One early impressive sequence in ‘Red Dawn,’ which proved Bradley’s serious intent on creating a powerful action movie, was the plane scene in which North Korean soldiers parachute over Spokane. The soldiers showed no fear as they shot down the Eckerts’ neighborhood, believing the city would easily surrender to them. But Jed and Matt immediately started their fearless retaliation as they drove out of town, picking up their friends along the way.
Hemsworth, Peck and the other actors sustained the reality of quickly bonding and being able to fight back against their country’s invaders, by physically preparing themselves in a military style boot camp before shooting began. The actors believably shot their numerous weapons, including AK-47’s, rockets and grenade launchers, and understood military procedure throughout the movie by eating authentic military rations and creating and cleaning their own real weapons from scratch. The actors convincingly fought off their characters’ enemies, even if meant the Wolverines put their own lives at risk, to be able to save everyone they love around them.
While Jed and Matt often have arguments over the best way to fight the North Koreans and lead the Wolverines, Hemsworth naturally played the older Eckert brother as determined to protect his family, even if they don’t always agree on the other’s choices. The actor showed his commitment to the role and creating a complex character, happy to try to fix his family but still having the drive to always be in control, by training with the Marines for three months before he began shooting. After running boot camp as a Marine during his film training, Hemsworth proved Jed had the knowledge and will-power to lead the Wolverines, and quickly earned respect as the group’s leader.
While Jed had to contend with the regret and guilt of leaving his family to join the Marines after his mother died, he finds a natural comfort with Toni, a former childhood friend who understands his pain. Toni is like Jed in the sense that she knows what she has to do in order to protect the group, and put everyone else’s needs in front of her own. While their blossoming romantic relationship isn’t as prominent as the actual fighting throughout the course of the film, it still offers the two characters hope and a reason to continue fighting.
With the original 1984 version of ‘Red Dawn’ launching many of its young actors’ careers and contemplating the political threats plaguing the era, Bradley’s new remake shows the bravery of the young vigilante attempt to outwit and overcome foreign intruders, in order to save their homes and take back their freedom. Drawing on his three decades worth of experience as a stunt coordinator, the first-time helmer creatively used impressive sets, unique action sequences and emphasized character development and relationships to show the human relationships in moments of chaos, all on a modest budget for an action film. ‘Red Dawn’ features a true sense of story and character, and adds humanity and emotions to the Wolverines and their fight to save their homes and freedom.
Written by: Karen Benardello