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Incomparable director Werner Herzog takes another strange turn in his eclectic career with RESCUE DAWN--a major studio picture starring Christian Bale (BATMAN BEGINS). The film is an adaptation of Herzog's 1997 documentary LITTLE DIETER NEEDS TO FLY, which focused on Dieter Dengler, a pilot who was imprisoned by enemy forces during the Vietnam War. Dengler escaped and his incredible reminisces about this period in his life spilled onto the screen in Herzog's documentary. Here, Bale plays Dengler, while Herzog constructs a dark masterpiece around him, inviting his audience to observe a dramatic reconstruction of the events that beset the unfortunate soldier. Bale's Dengler is aided by fellow captive Duane (Steve Zahn), and a capable cast of characters who variously play prisoners and sadistic guards. The film is split into two parts, with the harrowing experiences of prison life taking the bulk of Herzog's screen time, followed by a desperate bid for survival in the jungle.
Bale really gets a chance to demonstrate his acting chops as RESCUE DAWN unravels, with the actor heading on a rapid downward spiral as the film progresses. Herzog rarely allows the tension to drop throughout, and while most audiences may expect some relief as Dengler escapes his confines, things get much worse as he heads into the perilous Vietnamese jungle. Herzog presents plenty of raw emotion and a rough, at times barely watchable, portrayal of the human spirit, as Dengler's sanity is severely tested, and often only held together by his companionship with Duane. RESCUE DAWN is a rewarding trip and another wonderful addition to the Herzog canon.