Monday, February 18, 2008

Rescue Dawn

Rescue Dawn (Werner Herzog, 2007) [5]
This film, much like its central character, Dieter Dengler, is filled with such a single-minded determinism that it creates a bit of a problem. Obviously, Herzog wants to tell the story of Dengler, a pilot shot down and imprisoned during the early days of the Vietnam War and his heroic, near miraculous escape from his captors. The problem for me is the film is so centered on Dieter's struggle and his own drive to escape that it becomes it not repetetive, at least ambivolous to the events around him. Everything in the film, from the jungle landscape to Dieter's Vietnemese captors, are used completely as obstacles for Dieter to overcome. They never have any real qualities or emotions other than they exist to be conquered. There's no mention of the greater aspects of the war, other than it seems like every Vietnemese is ready to kill someone at the drop of a hat. All of this may be functional in the grand scheme of things, it is essentially Dieter's story, but the lack of other elements doesn't make this a great film to me. Herzog has used the massive size of the jungle as crucial themes in his other films, bordering on being characters themselves. Here, he doesn't do any of that which is the biggest disappointment for me. Christian Bale certainly is interesting as Dieter, a man filled with so much optimism and ambivilence to his situation, it makes you wonder if he isn't a little mentally diminished in some ways. Bales at least sells the character by consistency. The real powerhouse performance of the film is Steve Zahn as Duane, the polar opposite of Dieter, a man who captivity has crushed all optimism and will to escape let alone survive. Dieter operates as the catalyst to stir one final push in Duane, and Zahn hits all the right points in playing the character. It would have been interesting to have a film from Duane's point of view with Dieter being one of the supporting characters. Unfortunately, that's not what's here.

No comments: