Rescue Dawn (2006)

If only George of the Jungle was here to save THE BATMAN!!

Renowned director Werner Herzog’s inspiring drama recounts the heroic saga of Dieter Dengler, a German-American fighter pilot and highly decorated Vietnam veteran whose reconnaissance plane was shot down in 1966. Captured by enemy forces and held in a Laotian torture camp near the Ho Chi Minh Trail, Dengler (portrayed by Christian Bale) defied death by organizing one of the most daring escapes in the Vietnam conflict.

I know how much everybody loves director Werner Herzog but I just haven’t ever really checked out any of his stuff before now. To say the least, he isn’t as great as everybody says he is but he’s still good.

Herzog knows how to make a very grueling and brutal story like this almost seem beautiful in his own poetic way. There’s a great deal of suspense here as a scene goes on, with the camera just slowly right behind the characters as the suspense gets larger and larger. I also liked how Herzog didn’t make this film about being a proud member of the U.S. army, and make it more about one man’s eternal struggle to survive and adapt to the environment that surrounds him.

My problem with this film was that nothing here really interested me other than the fact that this was a true story. A true story that I knew exactly how it was going to all pan out in the end. A large majority of the film felt like everything was a routine and didn’t have a natural feel and even though the suspense worked incredibly well at certain points, overall to me, this just felt like something I’ve seen before and didn’t have much of an effect on me as much as the film wanted it to.

Another problem with this film was the fact that all of the captors here just seemed like total idiots and goof-balls just for the sake so that we didn’t even get to know these bad guys one bit. The ringleader has hair down to his shoulders and glasses that look like they would be better used on Ray Charles’ face; another henchmen uses karate on the air randomly for no reason; and the most random of all, a grinning dwarf that seems totally oblivious to everything around him and is just put in the film because Herzog for some odd reason has a love for dwarfs.

Christian Bale here as Dieter Dengler is what really makes this film work and kept me watching the whole time. Bale does his trademark physical transformation that he has used many and many times before but the real power of his performance lies within his emotional transformation that feels so gripping. Bale just seems like a total mad-man when he is forced to adapt to his primal instincts and uses that rough and raw edge to his character that we all have seen before, but works so well right here.

Steve Zahn is also great in this role as Duane Martin. Zahn is always funny and great to watch in little comedic supporting roles but here he is so much more believable and still gives off that extreme likability we all know and love him for. The bond he and Bale create almost seems like a marriage, but that just adds so much more energy to this film. I mean somebody has to give this guy his own film soon! Jeremy Davies does that sort of annoying talk “really strangely act” he always does in everything, but he’s alright here as a Charles Manson look-alike.

Consensus: There is a lot to be on the edge of your seat about in Rescue Dawn but for some reason I just didn’t feel that connected to what was going on, most of it felt generic, and overall, Herzog doesn’t do anything really new that I haven’t seen before. However, the performances from Bale, Davies, and Zahn are what really make this a better film to watch.



  1. Wow, I actually liked this film more than you did. Especially since it’s the second time Herzog told this story as he made a documentary about this story called Little Dieter Needs to Fly back in 1997. I have a boxset of Herzog’s collaboration with Klaus Kinski which I recommend to get. I already knew the story but I was glad to see how Herzog approached in a dramatic narrative since it does have his own ideas about nature. It’s definitely in my list of the best films of the 2000s.

    • Damn! We were on two totally different ends of the spectrum with this film but at least we both liked it. I guess I have to give him more shots in that case then. Thanks Steven!

  2. I’ve been meaning to check out Werner Herzog’s work, I haven’t seen any of his work. Aguirre: The Wrath of God in particular interests me, this seems less interesting.

  3. I definitely agree with you that this was just an “okay” film. I wanted to like it a lot more than I did (I love the survival genre and I love Christian Bale). Werner Herzog the narrative film director does leave a lot to be desired, but he may be the greatest documentary director ever. I highly recommend you watch a few of those (especially Grizzly Man).

    Back to the film, I thought Steve Zahn was the best part about this film. I never knew he had the potential he displayed here in him. As always, I though Christian Bale was great too.

  4. I really liked this, but I’m hard-pressed to recommend it over Little Dieter Needs to Fly, which is far, far more moving. That said, this does have a really good Christian Bale performance in it, which is always worth watching.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s