Several years prior to Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey working it on the dance floor, shortly before Lea Thompson made her Hollywood mark as Loraine Baines McFly, and way back when Charlie Sheen was an adorable dead ringer to Harry Potter, these were four relatively unknown actors who took the world by storm in the 1984 pro-American film, Red Dawn. This movie was made at the height of the Cold War and the idea of a bunch of young teenagers who stood against Communism and adversity may have seem laughable and maybe even unrealistic, however, Red Dawn has the universal message of how a handful people can change the world when they are willing to fight and lay down their lives for what is right.
In a sleepy little Colorado town, Jed Eckert (Patrick Swayze), his brother Matt (Charlie Sheen) and their friends think it's going to be a regular school and work day. That changes quickly when Soviet forces land outside the local high school and start destroying everything around them. Jed and the rest of the boys rush out of town and stock up on supplies, believing that the mountains are the safest hiding place. The Eckert brothers grew up hunting, fishing and camping in the mountains with their father and they know how to survive for weeks and even months. While the boys are safe, the town is under siege by the united Russian and Cuban Soviets and inevitably start WWIII with the little Colorado town forty miles away from the free zone.
After a month in the mountains Jed and Matt return to town to look for their father and are shocked at the hellish and controlling conditions. Most of the men have been taken to a re-education camp and that's where the boys find their dad who clearly has refused to break under the Communist regime. Unable to save their father, Jed and Matt promise to avenge him and rescue their small community.
Eventually joined by two sisters, Toni (Jennifer Grey) and Erica (Lea Thompson), the Eckert brothers and their friends become The Wolverines (their school mascot) and begin to fight back with stolen weapons and artillery. They travel through the mountains and forests, living in tents, surviving off of rationed food and listening for incoming Soviet calls. Soon Jed and The Wolverines begin to make a name for themselves all over Colorado and the rest of the U.S., but became public enemies to the Soviet generals in charge; especially after The Wolverines give shelter to a seasoned pilot, Andrew Tanner (Powers Boothe) who helps them with their mission.
In a Hunger Games-like style of kill or be killed, several of The Wolverines find themselves becoming as ruthless as the Soviets and soon their humanity and strained hope are called into questioning. Do they stay and fight for their town or do the unthinkable and try to escape to the free zone? Some live and some die, but all become national heroes when the war ends.
There is a strange power that this movie, despite its age, holds. While it's a story of bravery and survival, it's also a story mankind's ability to survive the extremities of evil and dissolution. There is almost a Hunger Games feel to Red Dawn and how power can control even the most honorable of hearts and one must be willing to break or build in order to bring about change. Considered an 80's classic, Red Dawn has the real-life action of war and the heartbreaking emotion of seven coming of age stories that together create a message of good people who challenged power, government and ultimate fear with hope, courage and sacrifice.