If it were not for the fact that Werner Herzog’s Rescue Dawn is a damn good movie, I would wonder why it was in the film festival at all – it’s just too entertaining. I can’t imagine any sector of the population not enjoying and being moved by it. Herzog has a thing for slightly crazy men with somewhat mad passions.
In this case, the story is Dieter Dengler’s, who wanted to be a pilot ever since locking eyes with an American pilot bombing his village in World War II. Now in the American Navy, Dengler (Christian Bale) is shot down in Laos while bombing the Ho Chi Minh trail. He is caught by the Viet Cong and held with an assortment of other POWs, including the nutty pacifist Gene (Jeremy Davies) and a solider who shits his pants every night, Duane (Steve Zahn). From there, they plot their daring and ingenious escape, after which they must test their endurance to the limit in the emerald-green Southeast Asian jungle.
There is plenty of action, the most gripping sequence being that in which Dengler and Duane almost get rafted off a waterfall, but unlike mere action films, Herzog gets under his characters’ skins in a particularly powerful way. It’s hard to imagine this missing a general release, so go and see it to emerge gripped, compelled and totally entertained two hours later.