peteg's blog - noise - movies - 2023 11 22 RescueDawn

Rescue Dawn (2006)

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More Werner Herzog completism. The road, it is long and wearying. The first of his big Hollywood efforts which, being shot in the jungles of Thailand, does echo his South American masterworks. But these are the wrong jungles: it's supposed to be 1965 in Laos and Việt Nam when (apparently) there was still a chance that the U.S.A. would not enter the war.

This is the fictionalised version of Little Dieter Needs to Fly (1997). Christian Bale obtained leave from Nolan's Batman epics to take on the role of Dieter Dengler who, on this account, escapes from a Pathet Lao PoW camp with Steve Zahn after being shot down on his first bombing raid. That's about it for plot; the rest is filigree. It's traditional in the sense that the non-English parts go almost untranslated and the enemies of the Americans are generally treated as subhumans unworthy of consideration. This is disappointingly unsubtle from Herzog: based on what I've seen so far I expected him to at least find a novel angle in this stale scenario.

Roger Ebert: three-and-a-half stars. Something like what John Huston used to do. Peter Bradshaw makes it sound like he wished Herzog had given it away before this one. Jeremy Davies as PoW Gene from Eugene, Oregon puts on a little of the old Dennis Hopper. (I was not impressed.) Something so 1960s/1970s: Papillon, The Bridge on the River Kwai. Bale repeats his extreme weight loss/gain from The Machinist. Matt Zoller Seitz made it a Critic's Pick. The Great Escape. Herzog always treats the locals as scenery but he humanely — truthy but all of that is mediated by Americans. Daniel Zalewski visited the set. Herzog's methods were considered unsound, or at least archaic, by his Hollywood crew. And where was that ecstatic truth?