Rescue Dawn (9/10)
by Tony Medley
This is a movie not to be
missed. Even though itís directed by Werner Herzog, it is one of the
best POW-escape films you will ever want to see. Herzog was responsible
for the deplorable Grizzly Man (2005), one of the most blatantly
dishonest films I have ever seen.
In 1997, Herzog made a
documentary, Little Dieter Needs to Fly, about a little boy born
and raised in the chaos of Nazi Germany and its aftermath, who wanted to
be a pilot. Taken by the story, Herzog wrote and directed this true
story of the little boy, Dieter Dengler (Christian Bale), a
German-American fighter pilot who was shot down over Laos on a secret
mission at the dawn of American involvement in the Vietnam War.
Bale gives a captivating
performance as a cocky fighter pilot. In order to be a fighter pilot,
one needs extraordinary confidence, and Bale exudes it in this film. He
never shows a trace of doubt or fear. Heís shot down on his first
mission in a propeller-driven fighter, captured, and imprisoned in the
jungle with six fellow captives.
In making this film,
Dengler took off the gloves and lets us see what he really thought of
his fellow prisoners. He immediately becomes their leader. Heís a guy
who knows how to do things, like making a lock pick out of a nail, and
the other prisoners immediately look up to him. One, Duane (Steve Zahn,
in a terrific performance) becomes his buddy. But another, Gene (Jeremy
Davies, in a performance that equals Zahnís), is reluctant to become
embroiled in Dieterís escape schemes.
The film is too long, at
129 minutes. More than an hour is spent in the prison camp, and thatís
too much. A lot of that could be cut. But it does show the monotony of
what it was like to be imprisoned in the middle of nowhere with no
knowledge of whatís going on.
The film really picks up
when they escape and Dieter and Duane try to make it through the jungle
to the river that they think will take them to Thailand. There should
have been much more of the ordeals they faced in the jungle, and less of
the prison camp. But even though I did find the prison camp scenes a
little too long, my attention never flagged. Herzog keeps the pace
There was no media
screening for this of which I was aware. When we exited the theater we
were approached by a team from MGM, asking us to fill out a
questionnaire in order to convince exhibitors to give this a wider
screening. We both filled it out, as did many others who were in the
theater, and the theater was about 80% filled for our showing.
This is a well-made,
well-acted, exciting, entertaining film that should interest everyone,
including women, even though thereís only a couple of women in the film,
and then only for a few moments. Despite Baleís exceptional performance,
this is the kind of film that rests on the director to keep up the pace
and make what seems superhuman believable, even if much of what we see
is, actually, true. Herzog passes muster with flying colors.
Finally, since Herzogís
forte is documentary film-making, the cinematography is spectacular. The
countryside where Dieter is imprisoned and through which he tries to
make his escape, is gorgeous. Itís like watching a travelogue. Donít
miss this film.
July 7, 2007