Review of “Rescue Dawn” (2006) PG-13 126min
February 4th, 2008 by Maxim · 1 Comment · 6,439 Views
This Vietnam War drama was written and directed by Werner Herzog. The movie is vaguely based on Dieter Dengler’s book, “Escape From Laos”. The actual Dieter Dengler died just before the movie came out of ALS – Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Herzog previously filmed Dieter’s story a documentary in 1997 entitled “Little Dieter Needs to Fly.”
The plot: This is a fictionalized account of the real-life U.S. Navy pilot Lt. Dieter Dengler (Christian Bale), who was shot down during secret reconnaissance mission over Laos and captured by North Vietnamese. He then organized a band of POWs (including Duane W. Martin) for one of the most daring escapes from the Laotian torture camps, Ban Houei Het Pathet Lao Prison in June, 1966.
The good: descent acting and the story was rather inspirational. Herzog conveys the state of mind of prisoners and their life in the prison, their relationship with guards, their health and moral state and why they decided to plan their escape. A respectable war drama.
The bad: First of all, this is a fictionalized version of the real events. In the real life there was 7 prisoners, Dieter Dangler wasn’t the only one who organized the escape, but rather when he joined the rest, they had already planned the escape and were stashing rise in bamboo tubes, had already made the keys to unlock handcuffs, and guards were shot by one of the Laotian prisoners, not D.D. Evidently, Werner Herzog preferred to make everything the way he wanted. The real life story was much more inspirational then what he created though.
What I also didn’t like is how Herzog conveyed the passage of time – one cannot feel how long were these guys in prison and how long their escape took. For example, Dieter Dangler was picked up weeks after Duane Martin was hacked by a machete wielding villager, but in the movie it seemed like it happened next morning. He does give some time references in dialogs, but it wasn’t convincing.
Among the goofs, the Navy fighter airplanes were old, but in 1966 they were new! D.D.’s crashed Skyrader had squadron # VA-25, but his squadron was VA-145. Also, I’m not an expert, but I think “Flight Lieutenant Dengler” would not be a Navy rank. Could by an R.A.F. Oh well, Christian Bale is Welsh after all.
This movie would have worked much better without any music at all, but Herzog decided to add drama and the “epic” feel with the music, which really is a distraction.
- Director Dieter Herzog
- Writer Dieter Herzog
- Cast: Christian Bale, Jeremy Davies, Steve Zahn, Toby Huss, James Oliver, Evan Jones, Zach Grenier, Craig Gellis, Marshall Bell
Steve Zahn was nominated for 2008 Independent Spirit Award for best supporting male role (Duane Martin).
DVD features: deleted scenes; director’s commentary; making-of featurette.
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