Film Reviews

RESCUE DAWN

By • Jul 27th, 2007 •

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Bale deserves Academy Award consideration.

When we first see Dieter Dengler (Christian Bale), a German-born American Navy pilot aboard his ship, he is in a group of men being briefed on their secret mission into Laos. The guys are young and cocky. Though warned, no one even considers that something bad might happen to them. They are American pilots! Dieter is shot down in his very first mission but refuses to bail out and is promptly caught. Refusing to sign a confession, he is taken to a Laotian prison camp run by ruthless Viet Cong sympathizers.

Dieter sizes up the other prisoners, American and Vietnamese, who have been held far too long. They are beaten, bound at night, and starved into submission. The Americans, Duane (Steve Zahn) and Gene (Jeremy Davies), are resigned to their fate and waiting to be rescued “any day now.”

Immediately, Dieter announces he is going to escape. That’s it. He can’t be talked out of it. He brings American hope and the willingness to explore alternatives that make him the best candidate for escapist-entrepreneur. His sole purpose to escape lifts the film from a prison camp horror tale into a heroic tale of survival. Dieter displays everything America used to believe about itself.

RESCUE DAWN is really uplifting. The more Dieter and the others are tortured, brutalized, and suffer, the more you cheer for him to never give up. Every difficulty is a challenge he gleefully confronts. The man cannot be defeated.

Dieter’s resourcefulness and strategy encourages the others and they do escape. Free, they all go in different directions. Dieter, with Duane, faces even more hardships as he decides they have to walk through the jungle to Thailand.

Dieter’s escape is a harrowing tale and Bale does another astonishing transformation – both physically and mentally – in portraying the man. Unlike his other physically demanding role in THE MACHINIST, he does lose a great deal of weight but, as Dieter, he keeps his spirits up and is never discouraged by his circumstances.

The choice of Zahn in the role of Duane is inspired. The character is teetering on insanity and Zahn shows a despair that hinges on fantasy. Davies, looking like he’s 82 lbs., has indeed lost his mind. Frankly, in their situation, perhaps that is the only way of coping – just surrender to it. Into their circumstances lands Dieter’s fresh fruit of optimism.

Bale’s performance deserves Academy Award consideration. After all, does the new Batman need to suffer in the heat, pass up movie star craft services, get filthy, and not have a sex scene with a starlet?

RESCUE DAWN’s screenwriter-director, Werner Herzog, last directed the documentary GRIZZLY MAN using 100 hours of Timothy Treadwell’s obsessively videotaped summers in the Alaskan wilderness living with bears. Treadwell never kept the cap on the video camera if there was a bear in sight. He loved himself too much – that clearly comes across. In my opinion, contrary to what everyone says, there is footage of Treadwell being mauled and killed.

I even doubt the audio tape was destroyed.

Last week I had lunch at Fitzcarraldo’s Restaurant and Bar in Iquitos, Peru. The restaurant boasts memorabilia from Herzog’s film, FITZCARRALDO. I had just spent 8 days in the Peruvian rainforest and returned to Iquitos for my flight to Lima. I’m fascinated with harrowing man-against-nature adventure stories like Herzog’s FITZCARRALDO and AGUIRRE: THE WRATH OF GOD. As far as heroic stories go, I still think INTO THE VOID is just as terrifying as Dieter’s escape in RESCUE DAWN.

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One Response »

  1. I agree he deserves an Academy award, he has done some other great works like the machinist, or american psycho. HE TOTALLY DESERVE IT:

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