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Rescue Dawn
A war film from the singular mind of Werner Herzog
Rescue Dawn
Christian Bale and Steve Zahn in Werner Herzog's "Rescue Dawn".
DOMESTIC TOTAL: $23,000,000
  This Film is NOT a Future Release.
  The Following Preview has been Archived.

January 28th, 2006: The biographical film will chronicle the fascinating story of German-born Dieter Dengler, whose passion for flying led him to America and eventually into the U.S. military. Upon becoming a pilot in 1966, Dengler was sent to Vietnam, where he was shot down and captured by the Viet Cong during his first mission in Laos. After surviving six brutal months in captivity, under unimaginable and intensely cruel conditions, he was finally able to escape, only to find himself struggling for survival once again in an equally violent jungle.

What to Expect: Relatively, as a Werner Herzog film, the most surprising thing about Rescue Dawn is the cast. In his last feature film, the mesmerizing Invincible, Herzog actually chose Jouko Ahola, a former “World’s Strongest Man” champion, as his lead. Known for filling his pictures with non-professionals and peculiar individuals, the cult director has instead opted for young, recognizable Hollywood talents this time around.

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Ever since his phenomenal portrayal of a deranged, soulless executive in American Psycho, Christian Bale has been steadily evolving as a versatile actor. In the past year, he’s been particularly busy with major productions like The Machinist, Batman Begins, and the recently released The New World. Although talent-wise he still lacks polish, Bale’s commitment to his roles has been nothing short of remarkable. His strict diet of just one apple and one can of tuna per day for his role in The Machinist changed his appearance drastically and seriously jeopardized his health. The resulting 63-pound weight loss, which put him at approximately 120 pounds, is possibly the largest one of any actor for any role. Astoundingly, just months after completing his work on the set, he appeared for the Batman Begins auditions in tremendous physical condition, having gained all the weight back. In Rescue Dawn, he will portray Dieter Dengler, the incredible hero of the story. To convincingly personify a POW, Bale has once again slimmed down, although not quite as much as he did for The Machinist. Working with a genius like Herzog will undoubtedly bring out the best in him.

Steve Zahn (Suburbia, Out of Sight, Saving Silverman, Sahara) and Jeremy Davies (Ravenous, Solaris, Dogville) will join Bale as Dengler’s two soldier friends in captivity. Although I was pleasantly surprised to see Christian Bale in this intense production, I was baffled by Zahn’s inclusion in the cast. I find him to be a refreshingly innovative actor, whose sense of humor transformed the slower moments of the thriller Joy Ride into the movie’s most enjoyable scenes. I simply have difficulty imagining him as an ailing soldier without his trademark sarcasm. On the other hand, as I stated before, Herzog is drawn to unique personalities and that might explain Zahn’s presence. Unlike Zahn, Jeremy Davies is not difficult to imagine in the film. Audiences everywhere should remember him for his convincing performance as the cowardly Corporal Upham in Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan. Herzog should utilize Davies’s naturally slim physical appearance and his on-screen inclination toward anxiety.

As much as one may love any or all of these actors, their performances will probably have little to do with how the public will respond to Rescue Dawn. Any notions or expectations of how the characters will interact in the film can be completely futile when Werner Herzog is at the helm. Although his films are not widely known to the mainstream, experts have long been familiar with his brilliance. His rare perspective on the world around him has produced some truly remarkable works of art. In films like Aguirre: The Wrath of God, The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser, Heart of Glass, Stroszek, and Fitzcarraldo, he has exhibited his fascination with human obsession and madness. At times, Herzog can seem a bit insane himself. For example, he claims that the entire cast of Heart of Glass was under hypnosis during filming. Whatever he did, he achieved an uncanny and disturbing effect. When filming Fata Morgana in Africa, he was imprisoned and tortured by the local authorities for several days. Clearly he is a true artist, not willing to sacrifice anything for his work. Constantly searching for meaning and some sort of an epiphany, Herzog isn’t just looking for a clever effect. His films transcend and inspire as they delve deeply into the human mind and soul. Through a strange combination of realism with surrealism, Herzog generates a bizarre and trancelike quality that always blurs the line between fact and fiction in his documentaries and features. Unlike the majority, Herzog’s films usually climax with images rather than words or actions. Their unparalleled beauty and intrinsic quality resonates long after being viewed. It’s difficult to compare him to any other filmmakers, but when pressed, I would have to say Terrence Malick and Stanley Kubrick come close. Herzog’s films contain the poetic musings found in Terrence Malick’s work, but their chilling quality and Herzog’s fascination with existentialism and madness is similar to what Kubrick was doing. In the end, a man who decided to culminate his film Stroszek with a long continuous shot of a dancing chicken cannot be compared or explained with ease.

It’s not surprising that for Rescue Dawn, Herzog is actually adapting his own 1997 documentary, Little Dieter Needs to Fly. That movie featured the real Dieter Dengler and was a fascinating tale of the hardships he endured. Of course, the real subject matter of that documentary was Herzog’s insight into Dengler’s state of mind, showing a surprisingly upbeat, but deeply scarred human being. Rescue Dawn will be yet another product of Herzog’s vision and obsessions. The film will continue his fascination with the jungle that will undoubtedly be exemplified in his powerful images. Ultimately it will probe Dengler’s character without spoiling a sense of mystery. Do not be fooled by the trailer, the actors, or the storyline, as this will be, first and foremost, an artistic examination of the human spirit.

In Conclusion: Being familiar with Herzog’s work, I guarantee a thought provoking and stimulating motion picture. However, this film will not be for everyone. While some may be inspired by the composition and the vision, others may be bored by the lack of conventional action. A good comparison would probably be Terrence Mallick’s poetic war film, The Thin Red Line. If you enjoyed it, you will probably be absorbed by Rescue Dawn as well. Personally, I have been fascinated by every single Herzog film I’ve seen so I expect to be captivated once again. The promising cast may be an indication that Herzog is vying for a more mainstream piece that could possibly get him wider recognition this time around. Sadly, I fear that the film will not get a wide enough distribution in the theaters to truly succeed.

UPDATE: It has been rumored that producers Elton Brand and Steve Marlton have yet to pay the crew since Rescue Dawn finished shooting, marring what should otherwise be an outstanding motion picture. The release date is now also uncertain.

Similar Titles: The Thin Red Line, Apocalypse Now, Grizzly Man
July 20th, 2007 (wide)
July 4th, 2007 (limited)
November 20th, 2007 (DVD)


Werner Herzog

Christian Bale, Steve Zahn, Jeremy Davies, Zach Greiner, Evan Jones

Total: 118 vote(s).

Action & Adventure, Drama, War/Western

Click here to view site

Rated PG-13 for some sequences of intense war violence and torture.

126 min





Rescue Dawn at AskMen.com

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