These are what we call the 'YMMV items.' Things that some people find in this work. We call them 'your mileage might vary' because not everyone sees these things in the same way. This starts discussions in the trope lists, a thing we don't want. Please use the discussion page if you'd like to discuss any of these items.
Anvilicious: Communism is bad. Gun control is bad. America is good. Survivalism is good. Any questions?
Applicability: This film could also be seen as an anti-war movie; it shows the painful effects that war has on innocent civilians, how it makes killers out of children, and it actually does an excellent job of humanizing the regular Joe Soviet soldiers, even in light of some ofthe things some of them do. On the other hand, while the movie makes it clear that war is Dirty Business, it still depicts it as necessary to fight back.
Discredited Meme: If you grew up after the Cold War, the entire premise seems a bit silly. If you grew up during the Cuban missile crisis, it seems horrifically implausible that anyone would have survived the nuking long enough for the premise to happen. Lastly, any detailed knowledge of the sheer logistics involved in an invasion of territory as big as the United States may very likely break one's Suspension of Disbeliefnote In Real Life, both the US and the USSR recognized and discounted any large-scale invasion of each other's territory as too impractical to achieve. Even the most plausible "up the middle" wargame scenarios—taking advantage of the least prepared part of the US—could only go so far before logistics started to break down. Director John Milius claims the film was based on studies of actual weak points in America's home defense that could be penetrated by invading forces, though it's unclear whether he was embellishing for Artistic License or whether the studies he claims to have seen may not have given the full story (it was still the Cold War, after all). Also, the movie appears to take place in an alternate universe where Central America is under Russian control or a Russian ally; it's a lot easier to invade somewhere you have an adjacent land border to.
Executive Meddling: Writer-director John Milius wanted to focus on the war is hell aspect, while the studio pressed for a more idealized presentation. The most obvious result of this is the tacked-on epilogue, which explicitly states that Americans won the war due to bravery of fighters like the Wolverines. Without it, the movie would have left it open if the efforts of the Wolverines changed anything in the end. The darker approach shows through in several places, such as how many of the heroes meet their ends in meaningless deaths.
Hilarious in Hindsight: In the RiffTrax for the original Red Dawn, the characters survey their wrecked town while the commentators say "They replaced our town with Detroit!" Guess where the 2012 remake was filmed?
No Delays for the Wicked: The Russians and their communist allies move incredibly fast in the intial invasion. Airborne troops making it all the way to Colorado in the first wave? Implausible but possible. That doesn't quite explain how Russian armored vehicles are already in town to support the paratroopers and set up roadblocks during the initial assault. Mexico is about 600 miles from the middle of Colorado(a 10 hour drive, assuming no stops). Apparently the Russians were hauling ass north, ran into no resistance and didn't have to stop to refuel to make it up there without being noticed and before the school day ended.
Actually the Soviets aren't seen using any actual 'tanks' for some time in the film. The vehicles they are seen using early in the invasion are all airborne capable vehicles like the BMD series of Airborne tanks, BTR and BRDM series wheeled vehicles, and ZSU-23-4 Anti-Air vehicles. Tanner was likely telling the story of what happened in the first few days or weeks of the war while the other main characters were busy trying to survive in the woods.
Several moments, especially when a Wolverine (or other major character) gets killed (and subsequently buried)
Col. Bella's letters to his wife definitely count. They provide some of the films more poignant scenes, and serve to establish that the rank-and-file of the Russians are generally Not So Different from The Wolverines
Values Dissonance: The whole premise. One could argue that the film is something of a deconstruction of this trope, with several instances of Gray and Gray Morality as the harshness of war catches up with The Wolverines.