Fans of the 1984 original film Red Dawn have nothing to fear. Director Dan Bradley‘s re-boot starring Chris Hemsworth (Jed), Josh Hutcherson (Robert) and Adrianne Palicki (Toni) is a mostly faithful retelling of the 1984 classic. Producer Tripp Vinson said that the re-boot is “heavily inspired by the original” and you’ll see bits and pieces throughout the update that will leave you comparing it to the original. Hopefully this won’t prove too distracting for fans. I won’t nickel and dime the differences and similarities here.

The premise remains the same. A group of (mostly) teenagers become unlikely freedom fighters when their small town (in this case my birthplace Spokane, WA!) is invaded by hostile forces (Korea this time around, not Russia). Fighting against seemingly insurmountable odds, this band of renegades helps turn the tide in the early days of what I guess would eventually amount to WWIII.

“That’s not a plan. That’s a sh*t sandwich without the bread.”

There are plenty of light moments and some moderate laughs. The action sequences, some of which are shot with handicams, are packed. Packed.

The opening credits are a bit jumbled, long. You won’t necessarily miss anything if you miss them, as long as you know that global tensions are running high and that Korea is the invading force in the film.

If you suspend your disbelief for a few minutes, the opening invasion sequence verges on the terrifying. In real life, to see a sky blackened by paratroopers and war planes would be shocking. No one would know what the hell to do. Would you? Director Dan Bradley then pushes it further. He adds an air fight above the Eckert’s (Jed and Matt) house. One plane is cut down, part of it spiraling to the Earth and impacting the house next door. There’s a massive explosion causing Jed and Matt to flee. This sequence sets the tone for the action to follow in the film. The pace, like the action, is brisk and intentional.

The film feels short due to the pacing, and there were moments when I was looking for more but didn’t find it.

“We’re not doing too bad for a bunch of kids—We’re gonna fight. We’re gonna keep fighting ‘cause it’s easier now and we’re used to it…But when you’re fighting in your own back yard…When you’re fighting for your family…It all hurts a little less and makes a little more sense…That’s our biggest advantage. For them, this is just a place. For us — this is our home.” – Jed Eckert (Hemsworth).

I’m happy to report, most of your favorite characters are here: Jed, Mattie, Toni, Daryl and Erica. Unlike the 1984 original, however, you’ll see a smaller Wolverine body count here but the deaths are just as jarring, just as emotional (more so as the film progresses). Hemsworth’s version of Jed is really the most important piece of this re-boot. Without him (he is presented here as a seasoned Iraq veteran), everything the Wolverines are capable of achieving seems unlikely at best. Hemsworth’s strength and presence is pivotal in driving the plot. I’m hard pressed to think of another young actor in the role.

The re-boot, like it’s predecessor, is violence-heavy. It still managed to snag a PG-13 rating from the MPAA. This is due in part to the lack of pervasive blood and gore. The film is strong enough to serve as a stand-alone, meaning: if you’ve never seen the original, you won’t be missing anything.

Red Dawn is in theaters November 21, 2012.

Official HD Trailer: