Rescue Dawn

It is just at the beginning of the Vietnam War and the United States is amping up its defenses. U.S. fighter pilot Dieter Dengler (Christian Bale – American Psycho, Batman Begins) is flying his first mission, a top secret one with the goal of destroying a Vietnamese arms hold. His life is in peril when he is shot down somewhere over the Laos jungle. Dengler manages to survive, but he has gone from one difficult situation to another. He is now stuck in the jungle with no idea where he is and is being pursued by the Vietnamese. Things look grim. He is finally captured and brought to a POW camp after refusing to sign a document denouncing the U.S's war against the Vietnamese. He meets fellow Americans Duane (Steve Zahn – Sahara, You've Got Mail) and Gene (Jeremy Davies – Saving Private Ryan, Twister) who have been in the camp for years. His fellow POWs are fearful and have lost hope about getting out. Dengler devises an elaborate escape plan and urges them all to join him. They manage to get out, but the crazy Gene goes his way. Duane and Dengler set off on their own to try and get through the jungle to safety.

Without politicizing the true story or the Vietnam War, director Werner Herzog (Grizzly Man) has made a visually stunning film about a man surviving against insurmountable odds. The film is not your usual CGI or computer aided brand of visually stunning rather he is able, with a simple hand held camera, to demonstrate the vastness and density of the jungle that Dengler is trying to escape out of. We can feel the humidity, rain, bugs, snakes, and never ending jungle while watching. It is shot and told in an almost documentary style.

Besides the story and the camera work, what stands out in the film is the acting. The trio of Christian Bale, Steve Zahn and Jeremy Davies all put in great performances. Bale turns in his strongest acting of a career that is certainly on the upswing. He once again physically commits to the role and makes everything he does seem genuine. Steve Zahn's performance is probably also the best of his career. He completely does a 180 from his usual sidekick in comedy films roles and plays a straight character. He shows that he has a larger range than previously thought. Good for him for taking a risk. Jeremy Davies is completely believable as his out of his mind character. The amount of weight he lost for the picture is shocking.

"Rescue Dawn" is so far Herzog's most accessible film, but don't fret that he has gone all Hollywood. It is still a bare bones and true to the story type picture. The picture is not the usual type of war film, either. It is not a film that the public will flock too and that is too bad because it is an uplifting story about the heroism that is inside all of us. What we all, on an individual level, are capable of doing. Like most of his films there are moments of sheer brilliance within the larger work. There are several scenes in the jungle that will take your breath away. He really is a director who does not need a lot of dialogue to tell his story. Sometimes silence and a visual are more poignant. The story will keep you on the edge of your seat with the tension built up throughout the film. "Rescue Dawn" is a professionally made film full of integrity and a dedication that does honor to the real Dieter Dengler.

Special Features:
-The Making of a True Story featurette: Unfinished Business – Telling Dieter's Story, Strength of Character, War Stories, What Would Dieter Do?
-3 deleted scenes
-Still photo gallery

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