Rescue Dawn (12A)

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The Independent Culture

Werner Herzog goes back to the jungle, scene of his great survival epics Aguirre: Wrath of God and Fitzcarraldo, only this time it's not the Amazon but Laos in the early years of the Vietnam War. This drama continues his fascination with the American fighter pilot Dieter Dengler, a friend and subject of his earlier documentary Little Dieter Needs to Fly, shot down while flying over Laos, then slung into a PoW camp where he was tortured and half-starved to death. Yet all the while he maintained a fanatical determination to escape, and encouraged a handful of fellow prisoners to join him.

As Dieter, Christian Bale slims down to the same cadaverous look he wore in The Machinist, and Steve Zahn as his buddy Duane appears to have followed the same dietary regimen. By the end, the exhausted pair seem to have dragged themselves through the actual length of the jungle itself – Herzog being a director who likes to make things as difficult for his cast as possible. It's nonetheless a rather "straight" film for such a notorious outsider, and the ending looks like it's been fashioned at the studio's behest. But if you can ignore the infuriating mannerisms of Jeremy Davies as a nutso PoW, this is pretty absorbing stuff.

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