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65 of 73 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 'If it is full, empty it. If it is empty, fill it.'
So speaks Dieter Dengler when asked for comment at the end of his journey of jungle captivity in Laos. RESCUE DAWN is as much about the courage and fortitude of a captured soldier during wartime as it is about a true incident. From the inherent optimism of pilot Dieter Dengler (played with commitment and finesse by Christian Bale) the story transcends biopic and offers...
Published on November 23, 2007 by Grady Harp

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Made Watchable By Steve Zahn
Am a fan of Christian Bale. His performances are often sublime, fascinating and like him or not - almost always engaging. Reconnected with the actor over the past decade or so having last seen him as a young boy in 'Empire of the Sun'. Admittedly stunned at the skilled actor he had become while screening 'The Machinist'. Just one of many excellent, even amazing,...
Published on August 2, 2012 by MadMacs


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65 of 73 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 'If it is full, empty it. If it is empty, fill it.', November 23, 2007
By 
This review is from: Rescue Dawn (DVD)
So speaks Dieter Dengler when asked for comment at the end of his journey of jungle captivity in Laos. RESCUE DAWN is as much about the courage and fortitude of a captured soldier during wartime as it is about a true incident. From the inherent optimism of pilot Dieter Dengler (played with commitment and finesse by Christian Bale) the story transcends biopic and offers lessons for life in general; the human spirit can be indefatigable.

Writer/director Werner Herzog has expanded his 1997 documentary about Dieter Dengler and in doing so he has provided us entry into the psyches of soldiers captured by the enemy and the extraordinarily trying conditions in which they survive. The optimistic and eager Dengler is sent on a classified mission to bomb certain targets in Laos in 1965 with his fellow pilots including his best friend Spook (Toby Huss). Denlger is shot down and captured, interrogated, tortured, and placed in a prison with fellow inmates Duane (Steve Zahn in a career changing superb performance), Gene (the emaciated and excellent Jeremy Davies), Phisit (Abhijati 'Meuk' Jusakul), and Procet (Lek Chaiyan Chunsuttiwat). The living conditions are deplorable: the men are starved, chained together making even the possibility of caring for bodily functions negligible, and the moral is low. Dengler changes that using his ingenuity and immediately plans for escape. Duane aids Dengler but Gene fears the consequences of an aborted escape attempt. Yet with Dengler's expertise and cunning the escape into the jungle is planned and is essentially successful - until the other enemy (the jungle) reduces the forces to one. As Dengler is rescued he is left with the ghosts of his fellow inmates, a factor that will haunt him and alter his life after rescue.

Christian Bale's performance is near perfect as are the performances by Zahn and Davies. The film feels too long at times but that also suggests that director Herzog wants the audience to understand the mental deterioration and stagnant time cycle that cripples prisoners of war. The atmosphere of the prison camp is presented well and if the ending of the film becomes a bit too 'Hollywood', after the 2+ hours of prison confinement that is somewhat of a relief. RESCUE DAWN is a powerful film with some of the best acting of the year's crop and certainly deserves the attention of a wide audience. Grady Harp, November 07
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rescue Dawn - War Drama Based on a Real POW, December 17, 2007
This review is from: Rescue Dawn [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
Rescue Dawn is unique among war films. It's not the fast paced action thriller of so many fictionalized war movies, yet it offers the story of a real man told tastefully through suspense and drama. For those looking for graphic battle gore, this isn't the movie for you. If you can take the time to study and appreciate how a horrendous situation can impact a man's thoughts and identity, you will find a lot to learn from here.

Christian Bale plays Dieter Dengler, a pilot shot down at the onset of the Vietnam War in neighboring Laos. He miraculously survives the crash and has to contend with his capture and reeducation by his communist captors. He is eventually taken to a camp where there are other Americans. The rest of the plot, while long, is best experienced without an outline.

Bale's acting is great. The supporting cast is equally as impressive, especially Steve Zahn as Duane and Jeremy Davies as Gene. The lush rain-forest is also a character in this movie, and the cinematography beautifully captures one of the world's most awe-inspiring and dangerous places.

The story was previously told in Werner Herzog's documentary, "Little Dieter Needs to Fly." Little Dieter Needs to Fly The script is nicely written, but much of it still comes across as a documentary. The director uses suspense and time to convey the anxiety of the situation. That's part of the reason wider film audiences are turned off or left wanting more.

I suspect that this movie would have had more visual impact in theatres. Unfortunately, it never reached wide theatrical release in the USA. The closest viewing most of us can have is to try to see the Blu-Ray version, which is visually stunning.

Ultimately, what will a man do to survive such an ordeal? What would you do to survive? This movie is a careful study that will appeal to film lovers. It isn't pro or against anything. It is simply the story of one man's ordeal.
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31 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars If you want nonstop action, go elsewhere..., November 25, 2007
By 
This review is from: Rescue Dawn [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
I decided to pick up Rescue Dawn on Blu-ray as a blind buy after reading so many positive reviews of the film. Overall, I was not disappointed!

First off, trailers for the DVD on television will make the movie appear to be packed with action. It's not. It's a character driven drama more than anything else, so if that's not what you're looking for go snatch up Die Hard 4 (another great movie). What I found truly compelling is that you could see the characters' actual physical and mental changes throughout the story - especially Christian Bale's - and thus feel more emotionally attached to the characters and their fates. Aside from the story itself, the movie looks beautiful in high definition (lots of lush green jungle scenes) and is very tastefully shot. The sound is quite nice, too, although I don't have an audio rig capable of playing the DTS-HD soundtrack.

Overall, I'd definitely recommend this to fans of drama or war movies.
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39 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars howdy, November 29, 2007
This review is from: Rescue Dawn (DVD)
A very good movie.
unlike any war, vietnam, or prisoner of war story i can remember watching or reading.
it is the story of Dieter Dengler, the only US Navy pilot to escape from the Pathet Lao.

The story is a contrast of opposing ways of looking at both the world and yourself.
Dengler's vs. two other prisoners in the camp, one of resignation, the other one an outward optimism (rescue will come before the rainy season starts), but really another form of resignation and pessimism (because it isn't joined to action but to waiting).

What i find extraordinary is not the survival of people in such awful conditions, but how a single person, sustaining what really is an absurd optimism can uplift and motivate the whole group.

I think this is the message that the director wishes people to take home, optimism maybe misplaced, but without it hope flees. It is better to be an out of place foolish optimist then to resign yourself to your surroundings and give up.

It is an extraordinary message and it is provided to us in the movie with forcefulness and with a subdued passion for life that really ought to rub off on each viewer as she/he looks at their lives and says "things really aren't that bad", "i just need to get moving in the right direction", "with the right attitude-like Dengler's".

Where do people like this come from?
How do they sustain their optimism in situations that destroy other people?
If i can't be that person, how do i get to meet one and learn from watching them?

It is a worthwhile to own movie, i can only imagine what Dengler was like in person from watching the movie, i've never personally met anyone quite like him.
so i'm glad i "met" him in the movie.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rescue Dawn - Suspenseful War Film Based on a Real POW, December 17, 2007
This review is from: Rescue Dawn (DVD)
Rescue Dawn is unique among war films in many ways. While it isn't the fast paced action thriller of so many fictionalized war movies, it offers the story of a real man told tastefully through suspense and drama. For those looking for graphic battle gore, this isn't the movie for you. If you can take the time to study and appreciate how a horrendous situation can impact a man's thoughts and identity, you will find a lot to learn from here.

Christian Bale plays Dieter Dengler, a pilot shot down at the onset of the Vietnam War in neighboring Laos. He miraculously survives the crash and has to contend with his capture and re-education by his communist captors. He is eventually taken to a camp where there are other Americans. The rest of the plot, while long, is best experienced without an outline.

Bale's acting is great. The supporting cast is equally as impressive, especially Steve Zahn as Duane and Jeremy Davies as Gene. The lush rain-forest is also a character in this movie, and the cinematography beautifully captures one of the world's most awe-inspiring and dangerous places.

The story was previously told in Werner Herzog's documentary, "Little Dieter Needs to Fly." Little Dieter Needs to Fly The script is nicely written, but much of it still comes across as a documentary. The director uses suspense and time to convey the anxiety of the situation. That's part of the reason wider film audiences are turned off or left wanting more.

I suspect that this movie would have had more visual impact in theatres. Unfortunately, it never reached wide theatrical release in the USA. The closest viewing most of us can have is to try to see the Blu-Ray version, which is visually stunning. Rescue Dawn [Blu-ray]

Ultimately, what will a man do to survive such an ordeal? This movie is a careful study that will appeal to film lovers. It isn't pro or against anything. It is simply the story of one man's ordeal.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More than 90% Accurate, January 21, 2008
By 
Samuel E. McGowan Jr. "Sam McGowan" (Missouri City, TX United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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This review is from: Rescue Dawn (DVD)
Let me start this by saying that I was a personal participant in the rescue of Dieter Dengler. I was the loadmaster on the C-130 crew that spotted the fires he set and it was with a parachute from one of the flares he dropped that he signaled the pilot who finally saw him and effected his rescue. I am also an accomplished author and a frequent contributor to VIETNAM magazine.

With that said I must say that after reading Dieter's book and seeing the previous documentary, I am convinced that the criticims put forth regarding the accuracy of the movie are unfounded. Dengler makes it clear in his book that there was bad-blood between the Americans and the Thais and also makes it clear that it was he, in particular, who devised the escape plan. The movie version of his story condenses some events but that is what movies do. It also shows his fires being spotted by helicopters when it was actually a C-130 crew that he signaled, but so what? The movie was shot on location in Thailand using available resources and attention to detail is not possible in that kind of situation. What amazes me is that events depicted in the movie that I thought at the time were hookey actually happened, particularly the scene where his squadron mates spirited him out of the hospital and back to the carrier. As war movies go, this is probably the most historically accurate I've ever seen. As for how Gene DeBruin is portrayed, I would suggest that critics read Dengler's book. While he may be more kooky in the movie than in real life, Dengler implies that he was a little bit off his rocker.

Incidentally, as a fan of EMPIRE OF THE SUN, I don't think Herzog could have made a better choice than Christian Bale to portray a pilot in a survival situation.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A dramatization of a real prisoner of war story set in Laos 1966, December 9, 2007
This review is from: Rescue Dawn (DVD)
Werner Herzog is a wonderful filmmaker and everything he does is worth seeing. This movie is a dramatization of the events recounted in his 1997 documentary "Little Dieter Needs to Fly". Because it is a dramatization, some of the events in the movie are conflated, and some of the characters are different than the real life people with those names. For example, Jeremy Davies gives a wonderful performance as Eugene McBruin. In the movie, McBruin provides threats and resistance to what Dengler is trying to do to survive. He comes across as weak, broken by years of captivity, and unnecessarily contrary to the idea of escape. However, his family rejects that portrayal. This is an especially important point because there were reports of his being alive and in Laos until the 1990s.

The dramatizations aside, this is a very good movie. Dengler was a German who was a child at the end of World War II. His hometown was on the receiving end of air attacks from the allies and a particularly low and close flight by one pilot transformed Dieter and form that moment on he needed to fly. He emigrated to the United States and joined the military so he could fly. As the movie portrays, he was shot down in February 1966 and eventually captured, tortured, and imprisoned in Laos.

Eventually, he and his fellow inmates made a plan for escape and the latter half of the movie recounts that attempt in June 1966 and what happened afterwards. The story is quite intense and Christian Bale does a fine job portraying Dengler. Steve Zahn gives a very moving and emotional performance as Duane Martin, Dengler's closes friend among the prisoners. Obviously, Dengler escaped and survived and we share the delight of his former crew when he returns to the ship. And we share Dengler's sorrow at the loss and pain he suffered in captivity and during the difficult escape process.

In real life, Dengler left the service and became a test pilot and survived four additional crashes. He later became a pilot for TWA. He died of Lou Gherig's disease in 2001.

I give this movie a strong recommendation.

Reviewed by Craig Matteson, Ann Arbor, MI
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful War Story - A True Oscar Contender, October 19, 2007
This review is from: Rescue Dawn (DVD)
War stories from the Vietnam era are always daunting. Always told by the heroes who lived them--fine examples like Apocalypse Now and Platoon come to mind. They are always full of courage, patriotism but told with crude reality. Rescue Dawn tells the story of a brave American soldier who became a POW during the Vietnam War. He just wanted to be a pilot, but became something greater than that. The film's great story, acting, and visuals create a sense of realism that the audience will appreciate. This is the best war movie of 2007. Also, this is Christian Bale's best performance of his career and probably a contender for best actor at the Oscars.

Brief Story Intro:
It is 1965. US Navy Pilot Dieter (Christian Bale) is going to a secret mission to South East Asia--Laos is his destination. As he is flying through the mountains, his plane gets shot down by the enemy. Miraculously, he survives the crash, but now he has to run away from these Asian peasants who are looking restlessly for him. Unfortunately, he gets caught. After suffering torture, he is taken to a prison camp in this hostile jungle where he meets other Americans soldiers like Duane (Steve Zahn) and Gene (Jeremy Davies). He becomes the leader of the group by showing determination, ingenuity and courage. He doesn't want to stay long there--like many of them--so he masterminds an escape plan. They all agree, but Gene is not too sure about it--he believes that the war will end soon and they will be released. After secretly collecting simple tools, they plan their escape.

Review:
Based on a true story, told with intensity, but what really makes this movie shine? One of the most important aspects of Rescue Dawn is its realism. It is hard to find actors who want to go the "extra mile" to give life to their characters. The main actors look, in every sense, like real POWs from the Vietnam era--down to their starving bodies and personalities. They transformed themselves for this role and I praise that kind of commitment--great actors who have done the same are Charlize Theron (Monster) and Tom Hanks (Cast Away). Especially Christian Bale who plays a charismatic, next-door guy Navy pilot who just wanted to fly his plane, made fun of surviving military videos, but once he becomes a prisoner of war, he chances to a mature survivor who has to keep his sanity in order to survive his captors and the jungle--his biggest enemy of all. It is heartbreaking to see all the things our hero has to go through to be alive. He never gives up even though the odds are against him. I won't be surprised if Christian Bale gets a nomination for this extreme role.

I also praise the German director Werner Herzog whose cinematography has a bit of a "documentary" look--especially when Dieter is taken to the village when we see his captors and regular people from the village--and also displays a sense of isolation and beauty of the South-East Asia jungle--some of the visuals are very impressive, but there is more than that. Rescue Dawn has the best soundtrack of 2007. The music goes well with every dramatic scene. The beauty of the melodies are so uplifting, that gives the ending, one of the most satisfying moments in recent memory.

The Verdict:
War stories are best told by the people who lived them, day by day, tear by tear. The ones who suffered unimaginable things, but their will to survive, kept them alive. Rescue Dawn tells the dramatic story of one of those heroes from the Vietnam War--All with vanguard acting and visuals. Some might complain for its running time (126 minutes) but this is a small issue because this is one of the best films of 2007.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Made Watchable By Steve Zahn, August 2, 2012
By 
MadMacs (Honolulu, HI United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Rescue Dawn (DVD)
Am a fan of Christian Bale. His performances are often sublime, fascinating and like him or not - almost always engaging. Reconnected with the actor over the past decade or so having last seen him as a young boy in 'Empire of the Sun'. Admittedly stunned at the skilled actor he had become while screening 'The Machinist'. Just one of many excellent, even amazing, performances.

However, this isn't one of them.

It took me a while to verbalize what I couldn't put a finger to at the time. A recent second screening allowed me to note the issues I have with this production.

Firstly, this felt and played like a television movie, with the accompanying cheesy effects, pedestrian screenplay and lazy cinematography. The sets, while undoubtedly close to authentic, filmed cheap; too many scenes looking like they were done in a climate controlled sound stage.

Add to the list of mishandled opportunities: Underutilizing the natural locale; not providing us the scale of the escape. It must have seemed like an insane plan to the desperate prisoners. But because Director Werner Herzog doesn't give us the immensity of the journey, according to the maps of Laos and Thailand I scoped before writing this review, the critical moment comes off as very local; as if freedom was merely over a mountain range. The scale, so important for us to feel and understand the massive undertaking of the escape, is never properly defined, hollowing the drama considerably.

Additionally, and it's something I've never seen Bale do - overact. Not in every single scene, but at times. And it's embarrassing given his immense skill set and ability. Again, one can solely lay this at the feet of Director Herzog. Unsurprisingly, his next mainstream directorial effort bombed. I'm unfamiliar with his German productions so perhaps this is reflection of a lost-in-translation situation. Historically, some European and Asian directors can't segue into US mediums. That or he's just a so-so director. I like to give him the benefit of the doubt.

In fact, I think it's fair to call this Christian's weakest career performance, even though that's still generally better than most of his peers. And made more apparent given that that list includes running around as a costumed comic book character.

My harshest criticism is directed at the ending of the movie - ack - trite. An insincere finish and one that I despised given how little effort went into correctly training the actors to look and move as Naval personnel. The worst? The person who played the emcee - blatantly not an actor and apparently some buffoonish relation to one of the producers. How about a steak? No, how getting a professional performer in there Herzog? Astounding horrid closure to a mishandled project. A disservice to the memories of the men whose lives this movie is based on.

My only compliment is for Steven Zahn. Very high marks - one of the few performances that rang completely true. To date, the finest performance of the surprisingly versatile character actor I've screened. Sadly, his outstanding execution is utterly lost in this mediocre product.

Ultimately, this movie has the basic elements to showcase an incredible journey of survival and the endurance of the human spirit - but fails to capitalize on the talent and core basic elements at hand. To see how this could have been done, I suggest screening 'The Way Back' which utilizes similar content, but producing vastly superior results. Also consider watching 'Gulag' from 1985. A stunning cable film that revealed the horrors of the communist "justice" system. Unfortunately, this is one of the many lost HBO movies, and therefore only available in the VHS format.

I'm torn as to where the line should be drawn. And yet another case for the Amazon half-star.

Call it a high three for Zahn's outstanding effort alone.

Movie Note: In doing research for the real story that formed the basis of the screenplay, I was surprised to learn how much Herzog had omitted, contrived and fabricated. Gene DeBruin, the character played by actor Jeremy Davies, was at the very least slandered. And at the very worst, defamed. If you're interested in hearing the other side - search for the website dedicated to Gene's memory. Quite a different tale told by survivors and witnesses.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This movie is heavy!, April 7, 2008
This review is from: Rescue Dawn (DVD)
This movie is heavy! Based on the true story of Navy pilot LT Dieter Dengler from the USS Ranger whose plane went down in 1965--this was interesting to watch. It shows him trying to evade the enemy in Laos, getting captured, tortured, imprisoned for 5 months, escaping/surviving the jungle and being rescued 23 days later.

If you have a weak stomach be prepared to see him and others eating bugs for protein. Worse part for me was when he caught a snake and ate it.

Dieter is said to be the only pilot who escaped from a POW camp during the Vietnam War. I wish I had met him while he was alive!

Have tissue ready for the last 15 minutes of the movie!
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Rescue Dawn [Blu-ray]
Rescue Dawn [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray - 2008)
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