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Capone’s Seen RESCUE DAWN!

Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here. A decade ago, writer-director Werner Herzog directed Little Dieter Need To Fly, an extraordinary documentary about a one time Dieter Dengler, said to be the only American to ever break out of a Laotian POW camp. He crashed his plane (on his first mission, no less) behind enemy lines during the Vietnam War, and spent his time in the camp with fellow Americans and American sympathizers who had been there for years. They were scared, starving, and without hope. But Dengler absolutely refused to remains a captive and spent months plotting not only his escape, but the escape of everyone in the camp, located in a dense jungle that served as more of a prison than the prison itself. His story of life in the camp as well as outside, attempting to make it somewhere where American soldiers might find him (if they didn't mistake him for the enemy and kill him inadvertently), is unforgettable, and Herzog has done a phenomenal job adapting his inspiring documentary into an equally powerful feature. Rescue Dawn's Dieter (who died of Lou Gehrig's disease in 2001) is played by Christian Bale, an actor who still finds ways to surprise and amaze me with his range. Between playing Batman, his scary skinny turn in The Mechanic, his heroic turn in The Prestige, and his downright schizophrenic work in last year's Harsh Times, Bale's abilities to delve into the heart of his characters appear limitless. He embodies the boundless energy and heroism (sometimes heroic to a fault) that Dieter became known for. Spending years in a prison camp simply wasn't going to be his fate. And it's clear from this film that his spirit was infectious. There are two other American prisoners in the camp, and it's clear their will has been broken. Gene (played by the Manson-looking Jeremy Davies) and Duane (a startling turn by Steve Zahn) find themselves caught up in Dieter's whirlwind of planning, spying on the guards, and planning for an attack that will set them free. Herzog's visual approach to the film is fairly free-spirited as well. We're never quite sure how much time has passed in and out of the camp, which may be confusing to some but I found it wholly appropriate, since in all likelihood the soldiers had no idea what day or month it was either, especially once they escaped into the jungle. Oh, and if you think I'm spoiling anything by telling you they escaped, I'm not. As nerve-wracking as the scenes in the camp are, Dieter and Duane's journey trying to find the border into Vietnam and link up with potential rescuers is often painful and awful to watch, despite this being a PG-13 movie. The men soon find out that the only thing worse than not being rescued is to see the means of your rescue right in front of you and have it slip away. Herzog wants Rescue Dawn to be as much of an endurance test for his audience as he clearly made it for his actors. There are few minutes that went by while watching this film where I didn't put myself in Dieter's shoes (when he had shoes) and wonder how well I would have done standing with him during this time in his life. Herzog's Fitzcarraldo (the film I'm guessing many will compare Rescue Dawn to) and the companion making-of documentary Burden of Dreams are all the evidence one needs to show that the German filmmaker's obsession with truth and authenticity trump all other things, including the safety and sanity of his cast and crew. Rescue Dawn feels dangerous and made me incredibly uneasy as I watched it, but there is no doubt in my mind that's exactly Herzog's intention. He also fills his film with extended, oddly placed shots of nature or activity that doesn't really move the story along but feels like we're seeing moments that aren't scripted, adding to the spontaneous nature of much of the movie. It's in these small moments we get to know these men and their surroundings. Herzog has spent much of the last few years focusing on his documentary filmmaking (with My Best Fiend and Grizzly Man being the best known of the bunch), and I think that shows in Rescue Dawn, a movie that should take great pride in delivering a completely believable survival nightmare that few of us could even conceive of, let alone live through. Bale, Zahn, and Davies may have re-set the standard for prisoner-of-war films, while Herzog remains the borderline crazy genius who was smart enough to cast them. This inspired film will test your limits, your empathy, and your definition of heroism. Capone

Readers Talkback
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  • July 15, 2007, 6:29 a.m. CST


    by grievenom

    is it possible?

  • July 15, 2007, 6:30 a.m. CST

    Bale just keeps on raising his game

    by grievenom

    I'll check this out.

  • July 15, 2007, 6:32 a.m. CST

    Christian Bale is the Man

    by Captain RawBeard

    ...Batman that is. Looking foward to this film as Mr Bale never dissapoints

  • July 15, 2007, 6:33 a.m. CST

    capone, did you see the wild blue yonder?

    by Holodigm

    it was pretty awesome, using documentary footage to make a science-fiction movie. probably one of the most original films i'll ever see, and probably my favorite of the herzog films i've seen.

  • July 15, 2007, 6:36 a.m. CST


    by Kragmose

    But I was when I entered the page.. dammit! Comment first, then read the article!

  • July 15, 2007, 6:40 a.m. CST

    Herzog? Bale? ZAHN?? I'm in!

    by MatDGZ

    I can honestly say that I have complete faith in Herzog. Him and Terry Gillaim have a similar style/approach/eccentricity - and I LOVE GILLIAM. Herzog and Bale - what can go wrong? Nothing I hope. And interested to see Zahn get his game on.

  • July 15, 2007, 9:54 a.m. CST

    I love Christain Bale!!!!!

    by lost.rules

    Does that make me gay?

  • July 15, 2007, 10:59 a.m. CST


    by Gwai Lo

    Plot/structure/pacing are kind of beside the point, he based it purely on Dengler's version of the real events.. And I'm not sure what you mean by 'no energy', as it took tremendous energy from all involved to get this film made, and I saw plenty of it on screen

  • July 15, 2007, 12:08 p.m. CST


    by Spaz Medicine

    Excellent film, great performances by Bale and Zahn. And unbelievably great performance by Davies, who stole just about every scene he was in, which is crazy impressive, considering he shared much of his screen time with the other two actors.

  • July 15, 2007, 12:17 p.m. CST

    CAPONE - "The Mechanic"?

    by Mr. Nice Gaius

    I believe you meant "The Machinist", sir.

  • July 15, 2007, 1:14 p.m. CST

    This movie wrapped 2+ years ago....

    by Quake II

    Herzog and the cast weren't sure if it would ever come out. I'm glad it was picked up and is now ready for release as it's an amazing story. Much more interesting than 99.9% of the Hollywood crap we are fed each year.

  • July 15, 2007, 2:39 p.m. CST

    Saw it, loved it

    by blackstormy

    the best movie I've seen in awhile. it makes you feel like you're right there with them in the jungle. looks very authentic, go find some articles about the making of, its all so interesting. bale and zahn should both be nominated this year. I really hope this movie does well, so go support it. herzog is a true movie-master.

  • July 15, 2007, 2:39 p.m. CST

    Saw it, loved it

    by blackstormy

    the best movie I've seen in awhile. it makes you feel like you're right there with them in the jungle. looks very authentic, go find some articles about the making of, its all so interesting. bale and zahn should both be nominated this year. I really hope this movie does well, so go support it. herzog is a true movie-master.

  • July 15, 2007, 7:04 p.m. CST

    Two words will always get me into the theater:

    by Bubba Gillman

    Wernor Herzog. Unfortunately, two other words will always keep me out of the theater: Jeremy Davies. This is like the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object.

  • July 15, 2007, 7:15 p.m. CST


    by Wrath4771

    Christian Bale may be the actor I admire the most in cinema today. Every movie he does is completely different from the previous and his range of acting seems limitless. This may not have been a movie I would have gone out of my to see, but with Bale's name attached to it, I will definitely check it out.

  • July 15, 2007, 8:42 p.m. CST

    Anyone who wants to see Rescue Dawn should read THIS!!!

    by Gary Yogurt

  • July 16, 2007, 12:13 a.m. CST

    Read the book, "Escape From Laos."

    by Uncapie

    Its intense and what the film is based on. I couldn't put it down.

  • July 16, 2007, 1:27 a.m. CST

    This movie is CRAP

    by dragon-lord

    I saw this a couple of months ago and it is truly awful. There is a reason it has taken two years to get a release...don't waste your time on this pile of kaka.

  • July 16, 2007, 9:07 a.m. CST

    Actually Bale's not all that versatile...

    by Christopher3

    But he knows his strengths well and picks his roles (near-psychotic obsessives)to suit them.

  • July 16, 2007, 9:46 a.m. CST

    This is terrific

    by psychedelic

    Their struggles and the jungle are tangible. Bale, Davies, and Zahn don't act so much as they inhabit their roles. It's one of the strongest movies I've seen this year and I hope it gradually builds a following and becomes a big success. Werner Herzog rocks! The least compliment I can pay it is that I felt like I more than got my 11 bucks worth---but that's just the tip of the iceburg when talking about how fantastic this movie is. Go check it out if it comes near you. It deserves all the support it can get. And yes, Bale, Davies, and Zahn all deserve nominations for their work.

  • July 16, 2007, 11:51 a.m. CST

    Bale is simply the best of his generation.

    by GQtaste

    I used to think it was Leo but Bale has surpassed him.

  • July 16, 2007, 12:31 p.m. CST

    I think this is my favorite film this year.

    by kikuchiyoboy

    These five actors were fun to watch and the directions was note perfect. <br> <br> So far I think this Broken English, Ratatouille and Transformers, yup that movie, were the only films worth seeing in the last couple months. <br> <br> But this film felt so personal and without agenda. It was wonderful adaption of the documentary. I hope he starts to make more fiction films again. Bale, Zahn and Davies were amazing to watch. That was one serious trifecta.

  • July 16, 2007, 5:24 p.m. CST

    Yeah but can Bale do light comedy?

    by DirkD13"

    That's always the trip-up for guys like Bale and Crowe. Michael J. Fox would have 'em licked of course.

  • July 16, 2007, 6:33 p.m. CST

    Rescue Dawn: The Truth

    by Mouse700

  • July 16, 2007, 7:04 p.m. CST


    by Lornsorrow

    Thanks for posting up this link people. I actually went over and read it. Amazing. "A Family Member's Critique of Werner Herzog's Rescue Dawn". Very informative. It's sad to see the facts so distorted, and so unnecessarily so. What a great disservice to everyone involved in the real story. I think Bale is a great actor, one of the best of our times. Too bad he choose to work with a story so distorted.

  • July 17, 2007, 5:04 a.m. CST

    Re: The Truth...

    by PoweredUpPacman

    ...So what's that supposed to mean to me? That I should hate this movie because it says that this guy fired the gun and not that guy. These people figured out the handcuffs and not those guys? Since I wasn't there, I could care less about trifle shit like that? Did he get shot down? Yes. Did he get taken prisoner? Yes. Did he escape? Yes. And wether every little ittybitty factoid is correct or not is not in th least bit important. I can understand why friends and family can get upset by this, but I'd argue that since they're the ones that know and they're the only ones that care, what's the difference? They don't portray a guy being a total dick or pedophile ro some sick shit like that. They just dramatize. That's what movies do. It BASED on a true story. It's fact by fact retelling of the story. If Herzog wanted to do that, he'd make a fucking documentary out of it.

  • July 17, 2007, 5:07 a.m. CST

    I mean: "NOT fact by fact retelling...." off course.

    by PoweredUpPacman

    Damn you, absence of edtit-button!!!

  • July 18, 2007, 12:44 p.m. CST

    The truth? More like facts vs. poetry.

    by strosmer

    If that website isn't a prime example of splitting hairs, I don't know what is. The truth is Herzog has artistic license to tell this story however he pleases. An accurate recreation of actual events is simply not his concern in this film, but rather to illuminate ourselves that we may see a more ecstatic truth, a poetic truth. This is art we're talking about people; there are deliberate decisions being made. Herzog is nobody's fool. He is a filmmaker-philosopher who is clear on what the messages he wants to convey and the feelings he wants to evoke. The family and friends who offered their critiques on that website are simply biased and have no artistic insight. They fail to read between the lines and see the greater truth to which Herzog is pointing.

  • Jan. 9, 2008, 2:34 p.m. CST

    finally saw was okay

    by just pillow talk

    Not a great movie, a solid movie. For whatever reason, I just couldn't get into it.