Dubby’s dvdiscussion : Baling out of captivity


Glenn Kenny, the ever bitchy critic has called Rescue Dawn, “One of the year’s most remarkable pictures”. It tells a true life story of Dieter Dangler (Christian Bale) who is seen as wide-eyed and crazily optimistic when he is captured by Laotians during the Vietnam war and then plots to escape much to the horror of his fellow prisoners of war like Gene (Jerremy Davis) who is so thin one wonders how he manages to move and is resistant to escape plans for fear of being killed. Duane played by Steve Zahn who though as delusional as the other prisoners finds a symbol of courage or hope or anything but despair in Dieter and escapes with him.

Nature has always fascinated Werner Herzog who directed the famous Grizzly Man in 2005. Beneath an inspiring story Herzog still pits man against nature in this case the impenetrable jungle of Laos and Vietnam. It also shows how the jungle endures while man slips into and out of a form of madness.

Says Glenn Kenny, “Bale’s Dengler remains crazily chipper as he concocts an escape scheme (in which they are, as it happens, kind of aided by a Laotian guard who deigns to provide them with more rice than the prisoners have been rationed), and only really starts to lose it once he’s out, when there’s nothing but water and weird jungle greenery and snakes all around. As with so many of Herzog’s films, the theme of man versus nature takes centre stage.

This is filmmaking that’s as rousing as it is strange, and the film’s final image, of the sheets of a hospital gurney blowing in the wake of an ascending helicopter, is both exhilarating and ghostly.”

Adds critic Brian Marder, “Rescue Dawn is not a movie about war, despite its Vietnam War setting, or even so much a prisoner of war, even though that’s what its hero is; rather, it is a true story of a man’s will and ability to survive… anything. And with Werner Herzog behind the camera, there couldn’t be a better marriage of director to subject matter. In 1966, German-born American Navy pilot Dieter Dengler (Christian Bale) was excited to be deployed on a top-secret mission, but the mission and the excitement were short-lived as his plane was shot down around the jungles of Laos. Before long, Dengler is captured and tortured by the Laotian equivalent of Viet Cong, whose leaders eventually lock him up in a makeshift cell. There he meets other POWs, including Americans who have been held for upwards of two years. His newfound friends are emaciated and understandably delusional, but Duane has managed to sustain a faint sense of reality. And when Dieter tells the group of his escape

plan, Duane is the only one to not ask questions. The escape is unexpectedly moved up and not without a hitch-not everyone will make it. Furthermore, once they’re free from Viet Cong, the men are held captive by the jungle. But Dieter’s madness winds up his greatest ally, whereas others’ fatally slows them down. Although Dawn might not have the Oscar pedigree or campaign power of a studio movie, Bale is nomination worthy for his mental transformation into Dieter, a survivor who won’t take death for an answer. If Bale gets an Oscar nod, so should Zahn, a journeyman actor as dramatic sidekick. He wears it well, from the beyond-scruffy beard on his face to the transparent hope on his face.”