Rescue Dawn Werner Herzog

Rescue Dawn Werner Herzog

Human experience can far exceed anything capable of being cooked up in the minds of filmmakers. Telling the story of harrowing real events from the life of American pilot Dieter Dengler, Werner Herzog proves this true. "Unfinished business,” according to the real Dengler, from Herzog’s 1997 documentary Little Dieter Needs to Fly, Rescue Dawn is the expanded dramatisation of Dengler’s memoirs of his time in a POW camp in Laos during the beginning of the Vietnam War. Christian Bale continues his astounding acting streak with this Oscar calibre turn. Prodigiously cast as Dengler, Bale embodies the heroic pilot’s self-assured optimism, infectious, cocky zeal and witty mirth. He even resembles the young Dengler. Herzog’s methods of extreme realism seem a perfect match for Bale’s predilection towards complete immersion in his roles. Apparently, the deal was sealed over promises of biting into live snakes and getting covered with leaches. Cast mates Steve Zhan and Jeremy Davies also commit in full to the harsh work ethics of the team, starving themselves down with Bale to frighteningly skeletal states. Much has been made of Zhan’s performance as Duane, and rightfully so, but Davies is also so delicately unstable that either man could wind up with a supporting actor nomination. Herzog loves his cast, convinced he has assembled the best of the best, and they love him with equal enthusiasm for his adventurous spirit, never asking anyone to do something he hasn’t tried himself, including eating live maggots. The commentary track with Herzog is excellent and along with the deleted scenes and four-part "Making of” feature, reveal a great deal about the instincts and values of this unique artist. He chose to omit scenes of torture due to a personal distaste for witnessing acts of violence towards defenceless people, even though they were described in detail in Dengler’s memoirs. With most movies based on a true story, events tend to have been fantastically distorted, in the telling of Dieter’s life, Herzog actually had to tone down the incredible circumstances Dengler lived through in order to present this amazing document of irrepressible heroism. (MGM)