Thursday, January 10, 2008
REVIEW - "Rescue Dawn" (2007)
Christian Bale always takes on the most interesting roles. No matter how good or bad the movie is he performs to the very edge of his abilities. Always changing his appearance, voice, and mannerisms for every character he plays. “Rescue Dawn” is pretty well made, but also a let down in some ways, yet never for Bale—He puts together a character worth watching fight against the obstacles set for him throughout the movie. As a result, “Rescue Dawn” is a strong movie about perseverance and willpower. The kind of willpower that keeps people away from insanity, away from the loss of hope, and ultimately, the willpower that keeps people alive.
Based on a true story, Bale plays U.S. pilot Lt. Dieter Dangler who gets shot down over Laos during the Vietnam War. Dangler gets dragged in to a prison camp and meets with other U.S. militants. Facing an uncertain time in imprisonment, Dangler raises the hopes of his fellow prison mates and plans a risky escape. The escape leads Dangler to call upon more determination and find rescue.
Overall the movie does an excellent job fleshing out its characters. The danger of the situation feels very real and there are plenty of edge-of-your-seat moments that wouldn’t seem thrilling in any other movie. Director Warner Herzog invested a lot of time in making the surroundings as real as possible. It pays off and the entire prison chapter proves to be the best section of the film.
The characters Dangler must contend with in prison are quite versatile and rather realistic considering what they have been through. Steve Zahn plays Duane Martin, a man who grows close to Dangler and begins feeding off his energy and enthusiasm for escape—Despite his weakened state and slow decline in to hopelessness. The most interesting prisoner Dangler meets is, ironically, the person historians know the least about. Jeremy Davis plays the insane Gene McBroom, a man so out of touch with reality that he continues to believe rescue will come “any day now.” (He’s been there for well over a year.) Gene is against the idea of escaping and, as a result, proves to be a rather irritating obstacle for Dangler and Martin.
While I consider the prison scenes fantastic, the long journey after his escape isn’t nearly as inspiring. It has its moments though. The encounter with Vietnamese citizens was a scarier moment than most horror movies in their entirety. It simply felt that after so much time was spent uplifting the prisoners, the following scenes were a downer. Yes, this was probably intentional seeing as the characters weren’t (literally) out of the woods yet. But I felt that the travel through the jungle simply lasted too long. On the other hand the escape was a great climax and after that it was hard for the movie regain speed.
Regardless of its rather exhausting flaws “Rescue Dawn” can be a really encouraging movie at times. Other times it can be quite depressing. And then sometimes, you just want it to end. In any case Christian Bale is fun to watch, as usual, and the attention to detail this movie offers is something to be admired. No, it’s not quite the masterpiece I thought it would be, but in one in of the most brain dead summers for filmmaking it stands out pretty well.
*** out of ****