Published on December 4th, 2007 | by Chris0
Rescue Dawn (2007)
Rescue Dawn is a based on the true story of Navy pilot Dieter Dengler (Christian Bale), a Navy pilot who gets shot down over Laos during the early part of the Vietnam War on his first combat mission. He's taken prisoner, and eventually escapes. You might think I just spoiled it but really did you think it would turn out differently?!
Honestly, the picture is a lot more light-hearted than I imagined it would be. I was expecting a film full of the usual Hollywood-Vietnam war movie cliches. A dark, depressing look at life in a Vietcong prison camp, with all the gruesome bloody details laid out in great detail.
Director Werner Herzog chose a slightly different route for Rescue Dawn, though, and it was really a refreshing and pleasant surprise. From the beginning, the light tone to the film was evident, as the pilots heckle a training film on jungle survival in the ready room. Which is really a strange counterpoint to the opening scenes of slow motion bombing runs over seemingly innocent jungle scenery....
...where was I, oh yes. Dengler is taken prisoner, and is thrown in with a mixed band, which include a few native-types, CIA operative Eugene (Jeremy Davies) and an Air Force pilot, Duane (Steve Zahn.) This is where the light tone of the film reminds you of such films as The Great Escape or Stalag 17. Instead of scenes of brutal torture and other atrocities you might expect in today's war movies, we get a look at a group of men trapped in a common situation bonding and making the best of their conditions. It doesn't hurt that their captors are an equally odd and mismatched group, from the midget named "Jumbo", to a psycho they call "Little Hitler" and a just-plain-nuts Kung Fu maniac. Oh, and a performing dog. WTF?
Davies is just brilliant as Eugene (from Eugene!), the CIA operative who's been there two years already. Although his role was obviously influenced by performances such as Dennis Hopper in Apocalypse Now, he's still just crazy enough. Steve Zahn is able to shed that type cast of the "dimwitted comedy sidekick" in equally masterful fashion. His portrayal of the crushed and desperate pilot, with just enough optimism to get through is amazing.
Against the odds, though, they do formulate an escape plan. It doesn't go off as it should, and only Dieter and Duane seem to make it out. From there they hack their way through the dense jungle until they seem to be at the end of their rope. They stumble upon an abandoned village, and get shot at by a pair of US Hueys! So much for plan A... so they continue on, until they reach another band of natives....
I won't spoil this part of the picture, but there's a beautiful metaphor that happens here that I wish Herzog would've explored more. The taking of the sole/soul that happens and how Dieter carries it on to his ultimate rescue just should have had more screen time.
Once Dengler is rescued, the film very nearly enters a comedic realm, with his buddies from the carrier coming to rescue him from the CIA G-men in the black suits.
I there was one gripe I had about Rescue Dawn it would be that it gets a little too light-hearted. It almost enters the realm of fiction, where I'm sure the real events were much more desperate and harrowing than the picture would portray. I've read that Herzog explored this story in a different light in Little Dieter Needs to Fly, which I've not seen, but am aching to now that I've seen Rescue Dawn.
Rescue Dawn is rated PG-13, and there really isn't a lot of coarse language or gory violence, but there is just enough of the latter to keep the kiddies away. I really enjoyed this picture, but with some reservations about its tone.
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In the tradition of The Great Escape and The Deer Hunter, Rescue Dawn is Werner Herzog's take on the pulse-pounding POW genre. Unlike most such efforts, however, his isn't just based on a true story, it's a remake of his 1997 documentary Little Dieter Needs to Fly...
DVD InformationBinding: DVD
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audience Rating: PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned)
Brand: TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX HOME ENT
Manufacturer: MGM Home Entertainment
Original Release Date:
- Christian Bale
- Steve Zahn
- Jeremy Davies
- Factory sealed DVD
Summary: Rescue Dawn is rated PG-13, and there really isn't a lot of coarse language or gory violence, but there is just enough of the latter to keep the kiddies away. I really enjoyed this picture, but with some reservations about its tone.