Rescue Dawn (12A)



Drama (2006)
125mins US/Ger

Starring: Christian Bale, Steve Zahn, Jeremy Davies
Director: Werner Herzog
Writer(s): Werner Herzog
Listings: London | Rest of UK and Ireland

Dieter Dengler enlists as a pilot aboard the USS Ranger in the Gulf of Tonkin. His childhood dreams of flying are realised when he takes part in a top-secret bombing run over enemy territory during the Vietnam war. Unfortunately, his plane is shot down and Dieter is captured by Pathet Lao soldiers. Refusing to denounce America, Dieter is hastily despatched to a remote jungle prison, which already houses five inmates including helicopter pilot Lieutenant Duane Martin and Air America worker Eugene DeBruin. For two years, they plot their escape.

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LondonNet Film Review
Rescue Dawn

In 1997, director Werner Herzog won numerous awards for his documentary Little Dieter Needs To Fly, a tribute to American serviceman Dieter Dengler, one of the few people to escape a Laotian prison camp during the Vietnam conflict...

CHRISTIAN BALE (Dieter Dengler), STEVE ZAHN (Duane) in Rescue Dawn. Pathé Distribution UK and IrelandDengler sadly lost his battle with Lou Gehrig's Disease in 2001 but Herzog revisits this remarkable episode in wartime history in Rescue Dawn, his first dramatic feature written entirely in English. Blessed with a Hollywood cast and breathtaking locales (the jungles of Thailand), the veteran filmmaker crafts a powerful testament to one man's courage and perseverance, and the enduring power of the human spirit.

When we first meet German immigrant Dieter (Christian Bale), he is aboard the USS Ranger in the Gulf of Tonkin, keen to serve the country he now calls home. His childhood dreams of flying are realised when he takes part in a top-secret bombing run over enemy territory. Unfortunately, his plane is shot down and Dieter is captured by Pathet Lao soldiers. Refusing to denounce America, Dieter is hastily despatched to a remote jungle prison, which already houses five inmates: helicopter pilot Lieutenant Duane Martin (Steve Zahn), Air America worker Eugene DeBruin (Jeremy Davies), and three Thai captives, Y.C. (Galen Yuen), Phisit (Abhijati Jusakul) and Procet (Chaiyan Chunsuttiwat). "If you try to escape, you'll screw up our release," complains Gene, trying forlornly to extinguish talk of rebellion.

CHRISTIAN BALE (Dieter Dengler), STEVE ZAHN (Duane) in Rescue Dawn. Pathé Distribution UK and IrelandDieter persists, confident in his ability to make it beyond the encampment and into the undergrowth. "The jungle is the prison," scolds Duane, "don't you get it?" As months become years, the six men bond and Dieter gradually persuades them to fight for their lives. When one of the Thai prisoners overhears shocking news, the date for the great escape is set: "July 4th, no matter what."

Rescue Dawn honours the memory of Dengler, brilliantly portrayed by Bale who wastes away before our eyes. His commitment to the role, as in The Machinist when he shed 63 pounds to play the emaciated lead character, is unwavering, such as ripping live leeches from his torso or eating great handfuls of live maggots. It makes the cup of squished insect larva - a birthday treat from Dieter's cellmates - sound delicious in comparison.

CHRISTIAN BALE (Dieter Dengler) in Rescue Dawn. Pathé Distribution UK and IrelandDavies is little more than skin and bone by the end of the film, ranting and raving like a lunatic as despair and starvation overpower his character's reasoning. It's a pity his mannered performance, including excessive twitching and hand movements, is hampered by garbled speech. Zahn injects black humour as the sidekick who sticks by Dieter every agonising step of the way, including a nerve-racking escape bid on a makeshift raft. "Listen, do you hear that? Is that a waterfall?" asks Duane ominously as they drift downstream. Mother Nature has a wicked sense of humour.

- Sam Cannon

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Clip 1: What you see is what you get

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Clip 2: I will not sign this

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Clip 3: I am your true friend

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Clip 4: I cannot go on anymore

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