The Day After (1983)


I remember watching this one when I was a kid probably a year or two after the Soviet Union fell, so it’s been about 20 years.    Several scenes from this film really stuck with me over the years and it’s one that every now and then I would think about and make a point to dig up (and then forget).    Thanks to YouTube, there’s all kinds of gems like this right at our fingertips that might have been lost to history.

The Day After came out in the early 80’s, which was a fairly tense period of the Cold War.  The US and the Soviet Union reached a period of relaxed relations known as detente during the 70’s, which was shattered by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.   It would be a few more years before the periods of perestroika and glasnot that ultimately saw the communist regime collapse.   In Wolverines: Reflections on Red DawnI describe the social and geopolitical situation of that period, as Red Dawn came out shortly after The Day After.

The plot follows the stories of a few different characters in and around the Kansas City area.   There’s the Dahlbergs, a farm family that lives near nuclear missile silos, Robert Oakes, a doctor from Kansas City and Airman First Class Billy McCoy, an enlisted man in the Air Force that works with nuclear missiles as well as a few other minor characters.   The first half of the film establishes the characters while allowing the situation between NATO and the USSR to develop, the middle of the film has the actual nuclear attack and the last part of the film covers the aftermath.      The premise for the war is basically the same as the Berlin blockade of 1948, but in this case it ends up in a brief ground war with tactical nuclear missile strikes in Europe followed by full scale nuclear war between the US and the Soviet Union.     The film gives a fairly realistic portrayal of how nuclear war would affect the survivors.

There are some good themes in the film.   I think the most prominent one is “normalcy bias”.   Many people refused to believe that something bad could happen.   In one scene the mother of the Dahlberg family continued to bake to prepare for her daughter’s wedding which was supposed to take place the next day and make the beds, despite the imminent warnings that the missiles were coming and her husband demanding that she get into the basement.   In another scene Robert Oakes and his wife scoff at the neighbors for deciding that now was a good time to take a vacation in Guadalajara (aka “bugging out) due to the crisis in Europe.   Sounds like the neighbors made the right choice.    During the montage of the US launching her missiles, there’s one surreal clip of the missiles going off in the background as a football game takes place at Arrowhead Stadium.    In another scene, Airman McCoy is called on to duty and forced to cancel his leave despite travel arrangements he made with his wife.   She doesn’t understand the severity of the situation and takes it out on him, making it all the more difficult for McCoy.

There’s one line in the movie where a doctor with a foreign accent (presumably portraying a WWII refugee) talks with Dr. Oakes and mentions that people were leaving Kansas City.  He says “where does one go from Kansas City?”, implying that if you’re not safe in the more-or-less geographical center of the United States, where are you safe?   This was one uncomfortable reality of the Cold War.   As a nation, we were fortunate to have avoided the widespread death and destruction that happened in Europe and Asia during the 20th Century.   Had World War III panned out like it did in The Day After, we would not have been as fortunate and everybody would be affected.

Another theme in the film is the idea that an ounce of prevention is worth a ton of cure in the case of nuclear war.    The director conveys his sentiments that we’re better off trying to reduce the possibility of nuclear war rather than preparing to deal with the consequences.   The director doesn’t seem too optimistic about the ability to effectively get things back to normal in the aftermath of a nuclear war and based on what I know, I’d have to agree.    There’s one great scene where a group of survivors are huddled around a radio listening to the President address the nation.   In the speech the president assures the American people that rebuilding is underway and praises the American people for their resolve, noting that the Soviet Union suffered similar damage and that the US didn’t surrender.  The people are extremely apathetic and cynical towards the President’s words, given the futile situation they’re in.

There’s another great scene where a group of farmers meet with a local official who explains the government’s new agricultural program with advice on how to deal with contaminated soil.   The farmers are advised to scrape off the top 6 inches of soil and start anew.  One farmer in the group calls bullshit on the government’s info and asks how they’re supposed to pull that off when they have 200 acres of cropland.  I think this is not just an example of an inept government, but one that really can’t come to the rescue in some situations but at the same time can’t say “in the event of nuclear war, you’re fucked.  Sorry.”      In another scene someone says something to the extent of “when they come to help us…” to which another character asks “when who comes from where?”, bringing up the true gravity of the situation.

One thing I liked about the movie is that it didn’t have some magical twist where someone saves the day and everything is right with the world.   I think a lot of thought and research went into the production of the film and the adage that “the people that died were the lucky ones” is probably true in the event of nuclear war.     Naturally the film had a strong disarmament slant to it and wanted to convey to the American public an image of what nuclear war would actually look like to us.    I just read the Wiki article and I didn’t realize how controversial the movie actually was (but then again, I was 2 when it came out).   Apparently it caused a lot of psychological distress to a lot of people and even Mr. Rodgers had to do a few shows on the subject to help children cope with it.   It forced the American public to really think about these issues and talk about them.   Many people viewed it as defeatist and anti-American as well, completely missing the point.

Unfortunately I think this movie has been largely written off and/or forgotten as a relic of the Cold War, despite the fact it’s a great doomsday/apocalyptic/dystopian/SHTF/TEOTWAWKI film.   I think the first reaction is to say it’s irrelevant now that the Cold War is over, but I think that could be debated.   China has a nuclear arsenal capable of launching a full-scale attack on the US and all the end of the Cold War did with Russia is put them in a slightly weaker position, although they still have a nuclear arsenal and aren’t too friendly with us.   Then there’s the “rogue states” and more importantly, non-state actors (i.e. terrorists) who are capable of pulling off some small-scale attacks.    I think there was really something to the idea that mutually assured destruction helped keep the peace, whereas there’s not the same dynamic with a terrorist group.   Either way, some kind of nuclear incident isn’t completely out of the question.     We’ve pissed a lot of people off in the world and honestly, some of the people we’ve pissed off are the kind of assholes who would do something like that.    I would say that the kind of full-scale attack as seen in this film is a lot less likely today than it was then.

I’d also like to give the movie some credit for not being over dramatic or having many failed attempts at some deep, profound lines (which is a flaw of Red Dawn).   The acting is pretty agreeable.    At any rate, I think this Cold War gem deserves revisiting from people who are into this genre.


What Red Dawn Really Has To Say About War

An essay taken from Wolverines: Reflections on Red Dawn


For as many people who love Red Dawn, it seems like there is an equal number of people who hate it. Just read any article on the internet about the film and you’ll see the phrases “pro-war,” “militaristic,” “xenophobic,” “paranoid,” “jingoistic” and “nationalistic” come up frequently and not in a positive light. On the other side of things, there are people who believe that the film glorifies militarism, armed conflict and patriotism and love it for that. I believe that both assessments of the film miss the point, as the film’s take on war is more complex than what meets the eye. War is not exactly glorified in the film and at no point do the characters speak any significant jingoistic lines. Instead, the film focuses on the true costs and realities of war as it relates to civilians to an American audience that had largely escaped the suffering brought on by war during the 20th Century. Although the setting of Red Dawn is unique, the basic story certainly isn’t.

To say that the 20th Century was bloody would be an extreme understatement. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 16 million people were killed in World War I and somewhere around 70 million around the world were slaughtered in World War II. In addition to the two major wars, there was the Holodomor, a Soviet-made forced famine in the Ukraine that killed off at least a few million, the Armenian Genocide which claimed the lives of about a million, around 2 million killed by Poi Pot’s Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and numerous other atrocities and conflicts around the globe. Chronicling the violence and suffering of the world between 1900 and 1999 would fill up volumes. Despite the fact that a large percentage of the world’s population suffered through violence, war, tyranny, oppression and/or famine at some point in the 20th Century, the American civilian largely escaped hardship, despite the United States’ involvement in many conflicts over the course of the century. I believe that through Red Dawn, director John Milius challenges the American public’s ideas on war that have largely been formed at more than an arm’s distance from the actual fighting. By setting the conflict on American soil, the perceptive American audience might find themselves contemplating some of the hardships that war brings upon civilians and showing more empathy for that burden. Although Milius certainly uses Red Dawn as a platform to advocate for a strong national defense and he’s by no means a pacifist, the film suggests a very sober approach to armed conflict and brings home the true gravity of war to a disconnected American public.

While American civilians may have been distant from the consequences of war, the same can absolutely not be said about the citizens in America’s Cold War archrival, the Soviet Union. The Soviet death toll in World War II added up to well over 20 million between civilian and military deaths, with widespread destruction (some of the scars from the war can still be seen on the Russian landscape). We suffered somewhere in the neighborhood of 300,000 war deaths and statistically insignificant civilian casualties during the war. Barring a few anomalies (minor sabotage and Japanese balloon bombs), the mainland USA came out of the war unscathed. In fact, coming out of the war with our industries and infrastructure intact while the rest of the developed world suffered significant damage over the course of the war allowed the United States to rise to the position of the post-war world’s dominant superpower. The Soviet Union rose as a challenger to the United States’ position of the world’s sole superpower shortly after World War II in spite of the widespread death and destruction caused by the war. The sacrifices made and hardships suffered during the war by the people of the Soviet Union were deeply ingrained in the national psyche. The film brings up the question of the American public’s stomach for total war in a world with nuclear missiles pointed right at Hometown, USA. We know that our enemies in the Soviet Union proved that they could deal with extreme hardship, death and destruction – would we be willing to undergo that kind of sacrifice as a society as a means to win a war?

There are certainly some parallels between the Nazi invasion and occupation of the Soviet Union and the fictional Soviet occupation of the United States in Red Dawn,and I believe these are more or less intentional. When Lt. Col. Andrew Tanner describes Denver being under siege and the citizens living off “rats, sawdust bread and sometimes each other,” I couldn’t help but to make the connection to the famed sieges of Stalingrad or Leningrad and the harrowing tales of the suffering of the civilians of those cities amidst the block-to-block fighting. Just as Hitler’s Operation Barbarossa caught the Soviet Union off guard and unprepared, the Soviet invasion in the film caught us in the same manner. There are famous stories of Soviet commanders dismissing reports of German attacks during the kick-off of the invasion, and I would imagine that reports of Soviet troops falling out of the sky in Colorado would have been scoffed at initially as well. The Soviet occupation of the US encompassed much of our most productive agricultural land. The actual Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union took away much of their best agricultural regions in the Ukraine, forcing them to fight the fight of their lives with a hand tied behind their back. The loss of the oil fields in Texas and grain producing regions in the Great Plains would have a similar effect on us. Red Dawn allowed the perceptive American viewer a chance to imagine and contemplate some of the hardships suffered by Soviet society of a generation or two earlier and what war actually means when it’s on your doorstep.

The last time an American citizen fell under foreign occupation was in 1812 (or perhaps some people in the south might say 1865), barring the invasion of a few remote Aleutian Islands in World War II. Although rationing in World War II brought hardship to American civilians, life was lavish compared to that of our allies in Great Britain and certainly the Soviet Union. When the subsequent conflicts in Korea and Vietnam came, life in America generally went on as usual unless you were one of the young men drafted into service. Due to technological advancements, Americans could watch scenes of combat from the comfort of their living rooms and this became the war experience for much of the country. I believe that Milius must have had the idea that the American public lost touch with reality regarding war at the forefront of his mind when he came up with the idea of Red Dawn. He sought to remind us that the world can be a rough place and to show us what war looks like up close and personal.

Although the film was released in 1984, I believe the disconnection between the American public and war has gotten wider and more bizarre between the 1991 Gulf War and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan of today. It’s true that the heavy reliance on National Guard and Reserve troops during these conflicts made it so I would imagine that virtually everyone at least knows someone who has been over there by now, but the war has brought very little suffering to the members of the American public who have no direct stake in the war. I would argue that the wars have been embraced by many as a form of entertainment. You can get on YouTube and watch videos of IEDs, firefights and all sorts of things of that nature. You can even see it on the news and I know many people (myself included) were glued to the television set watching videos of bombs falling out of the sky on Iraq. I’ll always remember the scenes of a eerily-quiet pre-dawn Baghdad with palm trees and minarets, only to have the stillness broken by missile strikes and air raid sirens. Clips of smart bomb strikes on bunkers and charred retreating Iraqi soldiers on the “highway of death” out of Kuwait became iconic of the Gulf War.

As a personal anecdote, I was in fourth grade during the Gulf War and absolutely obsessed with the war. I remember the school playing Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless America” in the morning over the PA instead of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. With what little spending money I had, I bought Gulf War trading cards (pretty funny concept, right? I’ll trade my USS Iowa for your Harrier Jump Jet) and other trinkets from the industry that sprung up around the war – shirts with “I’d fly 3,000 miles to smoke a camel,” toilet paper with Saddam Hussein’s face on it, etc. I was glued to the TV watching the latest in military technology: smart bombs, stealth bombers, night vision and so on, used in a complete and utter shit-stomping of the Iraqi Army. I spent a lot of my playtime playing war. It really encompassed my thoughts and imagination. After the war ended I remembered feeling let down and making a comment to my mother that I wish there was still a war going on so there would be something good to watch on TV. Naturally, she gave me a completely horrified look. What can I say, I didn’t know any better. For what it’s worth, later on in life I got to see what war actually looks like when I went to Iraq in 2004-2005 as a Marine Corps infantryman. Of course the Gulf War experience for the Iraqis I talked to that lived through it was a lot different than mine as a kid high-fiving over smart bomb strikes and collecting the trading cards.

As of the date this is penned (in October of 2012), the remake of Red Dawn has not been released, but I feel that as a society we could probably use a Red Dawn again to remind a complacent and safe public what war looks like when it’s happening in your backyard and that it’s not always a matter of our boys pushing some buttons and laying waste to ne’er-do-wells around the world. To be honest, I doubt that the 2012 Red Dawn will have that affect, as the story line isn’t as tangible as the Soviet threat in the 80’s.

Despite claims to the contrary, I see very little that could be deemed true patriotic propaganda or jingoism in Red Dawn in the way of speech or imagery from the American side, although I will concede that one could get “our enemies are bad!” out of the film. The Wolverines’ motivations are entirely human and make no appeals to God, mom and apple pie, free markets, Jeffersonian democracy or the Chicago Bears. Jed puts it very succinctly in the scene where he’s about to execute a captured Soviet soldier when Matt asks him “what’s the difference between us and him?” in an appeal to cancel the execution, to which Jed responds “Because we live here!” followed by dispatching the unfortunate soldier. They fought simply because the Soviets were there and to get revenge for the atrocities committed against their families, friends and community. I think it’s interesting to note that the group’s name comes from the town’s high school football mascot, the focal point of many small towns across America, instead of a name that reflects a broader American identity. I feel it localizes their resistance and makes it more about their community than the larger theater of war.

If the film is full of pro-American propaganda, they do not do a very good job of promoting the idea of a competent and able American government so it’s hard to make the argument that the movie promotes statism. Agents of the US government only surface as the helicopter that saves the Wolverines (ok, that’s significant) and terrorizes the occupying forces initially, radio broadcasts from “Free America,” a botched armored assault on the town and the downed pilot, Lt. Col. Andrew Tanner, USAF. The idea of the Soviets getting through our defenses and catching us off guard would suggest ineptness of the government, whom we trust to provide our general defense against foreign enemies. Although it’s implied at the end that the invasion was eventually repulsed, the film does not show the US military coming to save the day and make Uncle Sam the hero. There’s no saving grace in American exceptionalism in Red Dawn.

The character who appears to be the most enthusiastic about fighting is Robert, who is motivated by a burning desire for revenge and a sense of fatalism after finding out about the fate of his family. Jed would perhaps be second in enthusiasm, driven by his position as a leader and de facto father figure to the now-parentless teenagers. Neither character display any patriotic sentiments or appealto high ideals beyond reacting to direct situations throughout the movie.

Red Dawn has a lot to say about war and defense to an American public who has largely become disconnected from the human cost of war. Milius forces us to address our complacency and perhaps arrogance acquired through virtually two centuries of military victories and immunity from the death and destruction that much of the world experienced during the 20th Century. Far from being a jingoistic propaganda piece or a two-hour glorification of war, the film shows the American viewer what war actually looks like through an uncomfortably familiar setting. How anyone can watch the film and get the impression that war is a good thing is beyond me.

I recently had  Red Dawn by Murray N. Rothbard from the 1984 July-August issue of Libertarian Forum pointed out to me where Rothbard came to many of the same conclusions as I did on Red Dawn.  Read the essay and find more from one of the greatest political and economic thinkers of our time at

Red Dawn 1984 vs Red Dawn 2012

A lot of people have asked me about my thoughts on the Red Dawn remake.   Overall, I thought it was an ok movie.   I think a lot of people already wrote it off before seeing it.  I figured it wouldn’t be as good as the original, but I didn’t rule out the possibility that it could be a good movie.   As a true Red Dawn aficionado, I looked forward to seeing it and made it out to the theater the day it came out.

First, I’ll say that the plot is a lot less goofy than I figured it would be when I first heard that there was going to be a Red Dawn remake.    I figured it was going to be something of a campy nod to Cold War paranoia and the bad guys would certainly be some kind of terrorist cell a la Invasion USA with Chuck Norris.   I was glad to hear that China was going to be the protagonist – not because I’m a Sinophobe or anything but because it adds a little more realism to the plot when there’s a tangible enemy.   Without something like that, you might as well have the Joker and the United Underworld invading the United States.    I understand why they would change the enemy from China to North Korea (because they would miss out on the large Chinese film market and diplomatically it just isn’t nice), but it knocked a ton of realism out of the plot.

If you want an idea of how the prospect of Chinese bad guys would have went over in China, look back to the 2006 Turkish film Valley of the Wolves (in Turkish Kurtlar Vadisi – Irak) where Turkish forces take revenge on an American unit operating in Kurdish Iraq who detain some Turkish commandos.   It’s based on a real-life event where US forces actually did show up and detain some Turkish commandos, even going as far to blindfold and cuff them, which caused a lot of outrage in Turkey.   Anyway, the film gives an alternate ending to that story.   The American State Department was not at all happy about the film and the American actors (Gary Busey, for one) involved in it were shunned.   I know Netflix refused to carry it and I don’t think any official copies saw the light of day in the US.   I tried to keep an eye out for a copy in Istanbul two years ago, but no dice.   It can be found on the internet.  I’ve seen the first 10 minutes or so and it doesn’t look that great.    They made a sequel about the flotilla to Palestine incident a few years ago that caused a bit of a stir as well.     The film did well in Turkey, around the Middle East and Germany (large Turkish population) but was more or less shut out of the American market and missed out on a ton of revenue.   The guys who did the Red Dawn remake probably didn’t want to get shut out of China.   If you’re banned from North Korea, who cares?

I think the biggest difference between the original and the remake was the overall tone and style.   The original is very dark and grim.  There’s a sense of dehumanization to every aspect of life, which leads to indifference to life and cynicism.   The Wolverines achieve some victories over the Soviets, but it comes at a high cost.   We see and hear of shocking acts against American civilians.   Life in occupied America looks an awful lot like life in many other places throughout the 20th Century that suffered war and occupation.    In the remake, there’s a few scenes of civilians being killed but overall life seems to go on as normal, just with the addition of some checkpoints and censorship.   The Wolverines maintain something of a sense of teenage normalcy amongst each other to the point where it really does seem like an episode of Degrassi High with guns.    With all due respect to Tomorrow When The War Began, the remake reminded me more of this movie than it did the original Red Dawn. 

I think that in the remake the audience weasels out of some of the more disturbing themes and imagery of the original.   We don’t see as many dead civilians, the civilians look more like they’re annoyed by the whole ordeal than scared shitless as they do in the original,  there isn’t much news of really horrific things happening around the world and there’s less bloodshed on the good guys’ side.   SPOILER ALERT!!!   The scenes involving Daryl and his end were completely milquetoast compared to the original.   The ending where Matt goes on to form this huge resistance movement and leaves the viewer feeling optimistic has a lot different vibe than the ending of the original, where it’s implied that the US ultimately won but at a very high cost.

I thought the remake had a few good points.    The relationship between Matt and Jed was a lot better developed in the remake, with a lot of sibling rivarly between the two.   I got the vibe that there was some of this going on in the original, but it wasn’t as blatant as it was in the remake.   I also really liked the opening sequence involving a series of newsclips (some of them were even real) laying out the world’s geopolitical situation.    I thought it was cool that Jed was a Marine.  Not just because I’m a former Marine, but I always thought that Jed’s character in the original would have made a little more sense if they had him as a guy who did four years in the military after high school and came back to Calumet to settle down.  It would have been hard to make him a war veteran in the original (unless of course he stormed Grenada with Gunny Highway), but making Jed a veteran in the remake made some of the technical aspects easier to explain.   I also liked some of the references to the original.   I can’t think of specific examples right now, but there were a few well-played subtle ones.

I’ve heard that the original Red Dawn had a scene in a McDonald’s, but the stills I’ve seen make it look like a place ran for the amusement and recreation of the invaders, not a place where the townsfolk could stop in and grab a Big Mac and fries on their way back to the internment camp after a hard day of street sweeping and grave digging.   In the remake there was a scene where the Wolverines stumbled into a fully-functioning Subway, full of dining civilians who appear like nothing out of the ordinary was going on outside.   Come on…   I hope whoever made this got a really big check from Subway for putting that scene in there.

Another minor thing I didn’t like was one of the characters that came with “Andrew Tanner”, the one who kept making comments about shit sandwiches and calling people “motards” and all.   I think this guy was the most awkward Marine Corps archetype I’ve ever seen in film, and I’ve seen ’em all.

When Red Dawn came out in 1984, it was deemed the most violent movie ever released.  The remake might have just as much violence if not more, but it falls flat compared to the original and comes off as just another action movie.  My intrepretation of the original is that it brought a lot of the real-life horrors of the 20th Century to the American audience and gave a reasonably realistic account of what war looks like when it’s on your doorstep to a nation that has only collectively experienced war at more than an arm’s distance.   The original challenged the notion of American exceptionalism and reminded us to remain vigilant while the remake seemed to reinforce the idea of American exceptionalism.   I don’t think that the remake had anything deeper to it than what’s at the surface, just like about everything else coming out of Hollywood these days.   In other words, I probably won’t write “Wolverines: Reflections on the Red Dawn Remake”.   I think you’re pretty much seeing about all of my “reflections” on it right now.

I think that America could use another Red Dawn to remind us what the true costs of war are as well as the dangers of what happens when we get too complacent as a society and count on the “it can’t happen to us!” mentality to shield us from danger.   A lot has happened since the 1984 release of the original.   Although I was entertained for the two hours I was in the theater watching the remake, it wasn’t the Red Dawn that I feel America needs right now.

The Red Dawn Book Is Now Finished

Wolverines:  Reflections on Red Dawn

Just in time for Christmas!    I’ve been working on this over the past few months.  It’s a series of essays about themes in the film, characters and events as well as some historical context and speculation on some of the vague parts of the film.   There’s two essays that directly deal with preparedness.   One is about the Morris Market supply run and the other is about The Masons and how they were able to live better than the rest of the civilians due to their knowledge of basic skills.

It’s a little less than 120 pages and about 3000 lines in a Kindle.



Red Dawn 2012 Trailer


Ok, so I’m a huge fan of Red Dawn.  Hollywood has been tormenting me with the prospect of a new version of Red Dawn for several years and will only now be putting it out – I guess the studio had some financial issues.

Yeah, it’s probably going to be kind of goofy and not as cool as the original.   Sure, remaking this movie is another sign that Hollywood is getting stale and just rehashing all of their old tricks either through remakes or renaming the same story line.

But I don’t care.   I’ll be there for the first possible showing I can get to.

During the delay they changed the enemy from the Chinese to some conglomerate of Asian countries headed by North Korea.   While China makes more sense, I guess I understand the diplomatic side of not making China the bad guy in this – it really could be a minor thorn in the side of US-China relations.   North Korea?  Who cares what they think, we can demonize them all we want.     When I first heard that there was going to be a remake, I figured they would make it with Islamic terrorists, which would have been extremely hokey.   I also figured they would make it intentionally clownish to make a statement about paranoia and all of that to poke a little fun at the Cold War era.    I’m glad they didn’t go that route and instead tried to make a serious movie out of it – well, about as serious as a movie as you can possibly make about North Korea quarterbacking an invasion of the US.

We’ll see how it all pans out.  I’ll keep an open mind about it and try to view it as a stand-alone movie based on Red Dawn as opposed to one that tries to stay 100% true to the original.

Edit – I just read an article that suggested that the producers changed the enemy from China in order to not alienate themselves from the growing Chinese film market.   Makes sense.    I’d bet there’s a little from column A and a little from column B here.


Tomorrow When The War Began!

I watched this Australian film earlier this week.   As a huge fan of Red Dawn, I anxiously awaited being able to see this as it has been described as “the Australian Red Dawn”.   It’s based on a series of young adult books by John Marsden that began in 1993 and the ending certainly left it open to the possibility of a sequel or sequels, even.

As far as the movie itself, I enjoyed watching it and I think my wife liked it even more than I did.  It was very suspenseful throughout the movie, which was enhanced by the fact that very little information on the invaders was given.

My complaints about the movie was that the group dynamics seemed a little too Dawson’s Creek and there was a little too much political correctness with the character roles.   I suppose these are matters of personal taste though.     I thought some parts of the movie seemed a little too close to Red Dawn and made it walk a fine line between “influenced by” and “ripping off” at times.   Despite these minor irritants, it’s definitely a fun movie to watch.

Some information about the invaders was given – they were part of an Asiatic coalition of nations that invaded Australia in order to gain land and resources for their restless population.  According to a shortwave broadcast they picked up from the invaders, they deemed Australia as being “greedy” with what they had and after invading the island they could bring about “equality” in their part of the world, presumably by siphoning off Australia’s resources and preparing the continent for colonization.

This situation, although fiction, made me think about the situation in A Few Paychecks Away From Crime but on a much larger scale.   There have been a ton of conflicts throughout history based on one side wanting something the other side has, be it oil, spices, water or whatever.     When things start to get scarce, sometimes people or states can act out of desperation.   I should also add that in Red Dawn, one of the catalysts for the invasion of the US was that the Soviet Union experienced the worst wheat harvest in 80 years (or something like close to that).   The war in the film didn’t start because they hated their freedom, they were harboring terrorists or anything like that – it started because the Asiatic coalition were desperate for Australia’s land and resources to appease the domestic population.

Although no specific country or countries are named as the aggressors, it’s implied that China has something to do with it.   Although the book was written before China’s rise, the book/movie seems to have a little more weight these days as China is increasingly demanding resources and Australia, a relatively sparsely populated Island is overflowing with natural resources.   Many currency investors hold Australian (and New Zealand) dollars, banking on these economies to remain strong due to the abundance of resources within both nations.   Many hold the Canadian dollar for the same reasons, too.

Interestingly enough in the real world, President Obama has recently ordered 2500 US Marines to take a permanent position in Darwin on Australia’s north coast:

As Part of Pact, U.S. Marines Arrive in Australia, in China’s Strategic Backyard

What could 2500 US Marines do against an onslaught of the Chinese Army?    Act as a deterrent to anyone wishing to make a grab at our ally.   I’m sure the devil dogs would lay waste to a ton of them on their way out, too.   I don’t think anyone is really concerned about an imminent Chinese invasion of Australia, but the move by the US certainly sends an aggressive signal to Beijing.

One theme that seemed to run throughout the film was the idea that “this can’t happen here” and it most definitely did.   In one particular scene, the group sees an Australian fighter plane get shot down in air-to-air combat with the invaders, giving the viewer the sense that no one is going to be able to come to their rescue.  In another scene, a detained Australian complains about the treatment from the guards and he is killed.   While I’m not going to suggest that China (or any Asian country) is on the precipice of invading Australia, I’ll definitely say that pretty much anything can happen anywhere and the attitude that you’re removed from calamity by being within a certain border is a bad one to have.    Bad things happen in good places all the time and this movie is an extreme (fictional) example of one.

I’d recommend watching this if you’re into this kind of thing and maybe thinking about some of the underlying issues behind the storyline whenever the afterschool special-esque love affairs and coming-of-age camaraderie become too unbearable.    In short, these issues are:

–  Australia has a lot of resources and could be a good investment play.

–  Bad things can happen to anyone anywhere so be prepared for all kinds of contingencies.

–  When individuals or countries are short on resources, they tend to get desperate and sometimes do irrational things.

–  When you have things, there’s probably someone out there that wants them so a bit of security goes a long way.

–  Red Dawn rules.


I think it’s also interesting that the Red Dawn remake dropped the plan of using China as the bad guy in favor of a coalition of nations, similar to that in Tomorrow, When The War Began.   Honestly, it’s probably a smart diplomatic play to do that- I know we would be pissed off if someone in China made a movie with us as the bad guys.