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Aug 15, 2007

Fletch's Film Review: Rescue Dawn

Dieter Dangler is one strange dude. Growing up in Germany in the 40s, he and his town were subjected to bombing from the Allied forces. Dieter looked through a hole in his roof one day and caught a glimpse of a bomber pilot flying by. Despite this (or, as Rescue Dawn, because of it), Dieter comes to America in his teens with the lone goal of becoming a pilot. As the title of director Werner Herzog's earlier documentary of Dangler states, Little Dieter Needs to Fly.

However, not long after Dieter (Christian Bale) gets to fly, he's shot down. Near Vietnam. All alone, he does his best to gets rescued, but in no time flat, he's captured and transferred to a POW camp in nearby Laos. Yet, despite being in a helpless situation, tortured all along, Dieter keeps his spirits high, almost smiling the whole way. He's taking it all in, for better or worse.

At the POW camp, he meets a group of prisoners, some of which have been there upwards of two years or more. While not tortured much at the camp, the prisoners (and their captors, to some extent) are emaciated, given little to no food as they slowly fade away (Jeremy Davies, playing a near-crazy prisoner looks as close to death's door as Bale did previously in The Machinist - I might say moreso, but Davies is naturally a slight man). Again, Dieter doesn't let the situation affect him adversely in the slightest. No food? He'll eat the grubs given to him. Stuck for years in a POW camp? Not a chance - Dieter's there not a week and he's already planned his escape. Watching someone with such undying optimism can really make you feel like sh*t.

Much of the drama of the film is removed by the knowledge of it being a true story. Nonetheless, it features great performances by Bale, Steve Zahn and Davies. However, with my being a big Seinfeld geek, I was more impressed with the appearance of Mr. Toby Huss, aka "The Wiz." Unfortunately, even though he's playing a rebel and a clown, he took me out of the movie whenever he was onscreen, as all I could think of was him singing and dancing "Nobody beats The Wiz!!" Also in the cast is Marshall Bell, better known for being Kuato's "host" in Total Recall. Nothing like a good batch of character actors to brighten up my movie going experience.

To sum up, this is a good period piece, nothing more or less. The film ends with a cornball sequence, but it's really the journey, both physically, geographically, and mentally, that makes the movie. If you want to be depressed, uplifted and inspired all at once, check this out.

Fletch's Film Rating:

"Darn tootin!"

For those who haven't seen it or who have a bad memory, here's an edited, Spanish-subtitled clip of The Wiz in action. It's gold, Jerry! Gold!

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