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Review: Rescue Dawn (2006)

Rescue Dawn (2006)

Directed by: Werner Herzog

Premise: The true story of air force lieutenant Dieter Dengler (Christian Bale) who was shot down over Cambodia and captured by the Viet Cong. While in a POW camp, Dengler plans an escape with other prisoners.

What Works: The makeup work on the actors is well done, making them look starved and tortured. The film keeps it real and although some of Dengler’s captors are vicious, the film goes for more interesting relationships between the POWs and the guards than those featured in Missing in Action.

What Doesn’t: Rescue Dawn is a fairly by-the-numbers POW film and it borrows a lot of visuals from The Deer Hunter. Much in the film is comprised of scenes of the men sitting around inside of a hut and talking and rarely do they come into actual conflict with the guards. Although the film starts setting up interesting themes and ideas, Rescue Dawn does not take off into any of the interesting avenues available to it. For instance, the film starts to develop themes about survival and the relationship of man to nature, but never develops it. It also hints at more complex relationships between the prisoners as they debate whether or not to abscond from the camp, and there is an underlying theme of patriotism in the face of the enemy but even that is dropped. The relationship of the POWs to the guards of the camp is not developed and so there is no escalation of the conflict except in the most passive, non-visual way. This makes the story very flat and does not compel our heroes to act or drive the story toward a climax. Although Christian Bale usually gives good performances, this film finds him lacking, although this is largely to do with a screenplay that does not give him much to do. 

Bottom Line: Rescue Dawn is a rather mediocre film. Bale, who usually gives good performances, cannot find his mark in the picture and he, like the rest of the story, scrambles to find what the film is about and ends up with a collection of scenes that do not add up to a cohesive whole.

Episode: N/A (October 21, 2007)