Release Date
July 27, 2007
Werner Herzog
Werner Herzog
Distributed By
$10 million
Action, Adventure, Drama, History, Indie
Rated PG-13 for some sequences of intense war violence and torture
126 minutes

Rescue Dawn

Nothing quite makes you rethink the way things work like seeing someone’s head completely severed from their body. This is just one of the gruesome scenes depicted in Werner Herzog’s “based on a true story” war mongering film Rescue Dawn. Christian Bale plays the leading role Dieter Dengler, who is the Owen Wilson to Behind Enemy Lines. During active duty in Vietnam, Dieter is unwittingly lost into the danger filled wilderness, eventually forced into the life of a P.O.W. with the likes of Steve Zahn and Jeremy Davies. It is in the camp where he not only saves himself but all those committed to the camp.

The true to life aspect of the film is horrific when you sit down to really ponder it. Imagine sitting down with the real Dieter Dengler and hearing first person these cataclysmic events. Herzog translates these events extremely effectively and displays them for everyone to see and interpret. Though certain aspects of the film have apparently been detested by the actual parties involved, Herzog takes full control of creative license and produced a wonderful piece of cinematic history. Where Behind Enemy Lines loses its realistic feel with the constant cutting back and forth between the elusive Owen Wilson and the watch tower-like Gene Hackman, Christian Bale and Herzog cling to the one-sided journey of the captured, making the audience wonder if Bale will ever actually be rescued.

Rescue Dawn is completely unlike any of Herzog’s recent films, like Bad Lieutenant-Port of Call New Orleans and My Son My Son What Have Ye Done. Both have strong characteristics present only in a Herzog film, for example, focusing on the animals of the film, whether prominent or not, and allowing them ample time over the actual human characters of the film. Rescue Dawn is void of this, and many of Herzog’s other coined traits. This vacuity makes one believe Rescue Dawn was nurtured solely to be a box office hit and not a stylish art house film like many of Herzog’s ventures. Rescue Dawn strikingly comes off like Francis Ford Coppola’s paragon, Apocalypse Now, delving the audience into a world they do not completely understand, nor that the characters understand, as they trod along relentless. Even the dark feel of the film sheers through its big budget bravado.

Christian Bale proves why he is the big name that he has become today with the renewed Batman franchise and Terminator-Salvation currently under his belt. On his own, Bale carries a muster that invests an audience into him fully. Bale also has an aura of confidence that eases you into believing he can accomplish the giant feats placed at his feet with competence and believability. Even in group scenes, Bale sticks out as the more established actor. That statement aside, Steve Zahn delivers a performance divergent of any of his previous roles. With films like Saving Silverman and Strange Wilderness, both mediocre comedies, to be able to deliver this astounding performance is rather impressive. Jeremy Davies also effectively matches Christian Bale’s semblance, as the reluctant P.O.W., so unready to leave the life of the captured that he is reluctant to escape at Bale‘s command.

Though Rescue Dawn screams big budget film, in the summer of 2007, I heard very little about the film. Whether it was due to Bale’s lack of big budget films at the time or Herzog’s off kilter directing that ultimately masked the film’s debut, having viewed the film much later, it definitely deserves more credibility than that which preceded it. Rescue Dawn proves that even before Batman Begins and Terminator-Salvation, Herzog was conditioning Christian Bale for the role of the hero. Perhaps we would have a completely different Christian Bale, had he never collaborated with Herzog. Both continue a very enjoyable lineage with Rescue Dawn, proving they both deserve the positions they currently hold in the industry.

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