Rescue Dawn (2006)

Rescue Dawn (2006)
  • Time: 126 min
  • Genre: Adventure | Biography | Drama
  • Director: Werner Herzog
  • Cast: Christian Bale, Steve Zahn, Jeremy Daviesa


In 1965, while bombing Laos in a classified mission, the propeller plane of the German-American US Navy pilot Dieter Dengler is hit and crashes in the jungle. Dieter is arrested by the peasants, tortured by the Vietcong and sent to a prisoner camp, where he meets five other mentally deranged prisoners and guards. He becomes close to Duane and organizes an escape plan; however, the unstable Gene opposes to Dieter’s plan. When they discover that there is no more food due to the constant American bombings in the area and their guards intend to kill them, Dieter sets his plan in motion. However, an unexpected betrayal splits the group and Dieter and Duane find that the jungle is their actual prison.

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  • On his first mission, pilot Dieter Dengler seems pretty confident. He leans back in his chair and cracks jokes as he watches the training video, and he pops into the cockpit of his plane with pride. His mission, along with a few other pilots, is to bomb Viet Cong positions in neighboring Laos, and he succeeds in this mission. Just moments after his payload is dropped, anti-aircraft rounds shred his left wing, and he crashes in the wetlands of the island terrain. He grabs the few parts of his gear that survived the crash, and goes in search of shelter and water. When he finds a stream, he leans over to drink, and a machine gun’s tip greets him as he lifts his head back up.
    After the long trek across the jungle, including numerous torture tactics, he is left in a POW camp in the middle of the jungle with only 4 fellow prisoners. From here on, it is Dengler’s survival instincts and cunning that will keep him and his cellmates alive.

    My Thoughts
    Based on the true story of Lieutenant Dieter Dengler, Rescue Dawn is a film about survival, and what lengths it takes to preserve one’s life. From the various torture and imprisonment scenes to the final scenes in the Laotian jungle, this film is told just like a true story should be told.
    Christian Bale plays the role of Dengler, and he does a very good job of it. Famous for his fluctuating body weight, Bale lost 55 pounds to play the emaciated Dengler at the end of the film, and costars Steve Zahn and Jeremy Davies both lost around 30 pounds each. Although it isn’t quite award-winning, Bale’s performance is well executed, and both Steve Zahn and Jeremy Davies are good in their character roles.
    Putting aside the acting, another great aspect of this film is the cinematography. Like the acting, although it is not exactly award-worthy, the camerawork is very well done. At times, the scenes are filmed like documentary pieces, and that is a perfect storytelling tool in this case. With the cameramen undoubtedly down in the mud and harsh conditions of the jungle, the director of photography and his team had their work pay off.
    Now for the negative notes. I found certain aspects of the prison portion of the film to be improper or just plain wrong. The major piece of evidence is the portrayal of the guards. With the list of guards including a “little person”, a man who is always doing martial arts against an invisible opponent, and a man who simply just yells all of the time, I wasn’t sure if these men where true representations, or the director was making an ill attempt at comic relief. Either way, I found it unsuitable for the context of the film. In addition to the improper characters, I found the film to be quite slow. I acknowledge that the real events weren’t exactly hopping with eye-catching moments, but I found myself repeatedly checking to see how far into the running time I was.

    Score: 7.5/10
    Comments: Though it is not necessarily a classic war film like a Saving Private Ryan, Platoon, or the like, Rescue Dawn is a pretty good film. It’s available for streaming on Netflix, so if you want to stay inside your warm house in the holiday season, here is a good film to watch!

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