You have to admit, it's a great premise. What would America look like and do if war was conducted on our own soil instead of across an ocean? But instead of going the conventional way of showing you anything and everything about it, director John Milius decided to give this depressing scenario a view from a bunch of high school kids. We don't even know the full extent of the attack until the middle of the movie. Interesting concept sure, but what looks good on paper almost never works when fully attempted.
First off, with the exception of a young Charlie Sheen, the acting is bad... as in pathetic. Patrick Swayze is a guy you wouldn't expect this from, but he's one of the worst offenders. Then there's the plausibility of the Wolverine story. Sure, it's possible that a band of high schoolers could take on the Commies in small groups, but it wouldn't last for as long as it did. But it's Hollywood, so I give some leeway here. And there's probably a reason connecting with pride or something, but why didn't they just head towards "Free America" and help mount bigger and better attacks from there? At least they could fight on the borders, and receive supplies from the Americans. But instead, it's not until most of them are dead (more on that later), that they decide it would be better to not do everything independently.
Then there's the plausibility of the whole Russian invasion. Now, I'm far from an expert, but wouldn't it be almost impossible for the Russians to launch that big of an attack, so coordinated, so problem-free, so quickly, without a huge retaliation? I'm just saying. It was pretty hard to do it back in the 80s, and word to the wise for those doing the rumored remake, it's impossible to do it today.
Now don't get me wrong, the concept is very intriguing, and works great on paper, but the only problem is that it's extremely depressing. Call me an ever-happy schmo, but watching America being desecrated in such a manner with reeducation camps just doesn't exactly lift my spirits. It's probably not supposed to, but after 2 hours, it just drags you down. Add to the fact that all but 2 main characters die, including Charlie Sheen, in one downer of an ending and some painful scenes, and it's a bit overkill (no pun intended). I also didn't care for the fact that the ending left so many questions unanswered, leaving just a short narration. Here's a question, what ever happened to Patrick Swayze's character?
Now, it may sound like I hate the movie, but I don't. I was entertained and interested, but the movie just falls in so many ways, it's a downer, and again, most of the movie is just depressing. It has some good American values, intriguing concepts, and some interesting character studies. It plays on the fears of the Cold War, and therefore has the most impact for those who fully experienced these 'I Play Chicken With The Train' times. So, in a battle of best Cold War 80's movie, "War Games" still wins hands down. So here's to America, the NRA and The Wolverines!