Rescue Dawn – DVD Review

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Werner Herzog


Christian Bale………Lieutenant Dieter Dengler
Zach Grenier………Squad Leader
Marshall Bell………Admiral Berrington
Toby Huss………Spook
Pat Healy………Norman
Steve Zahn………Duane
Jeremy Davies……..Gene

DVD Release Date: November 20, 2007
Running Time: 126 Minutes

The Movie

Lieutenant Dieter Dengler is a German-born American that is serving as a fighter pilot for the United States Navy. It is the middle of the Vietnam War and the Americans are planning a super secret mission into Laos to drop some bombs and be on their way. Joining the Navy so he could satisfy his love of flying, Dengler was about to go out on his first mission. So along with some of the boys on the aircraft carrier, he’s shown some training films and then let out of his cage to go take out some “charlies.”

After dropping a few of the giant bombs, Dengler’s plane is hit and quickly descends to the ground without so much as even a thought to ejection. Dengler was a born pilot, went down with his plane, and survived. But his survival may not have been the best thing that could have happened to him as he is soon captured by some armed Laotians looking to make an example of the American. Dengler is tied up, beaten, pulled around by an ox, and is dragged wherever the soldiers want him to go by a noose placed around his neck.

They eventually take him to a very small P.O.W. camp and throw him into a bamboo holding cell with five others. A few Americans and Chinamen inhabit the small structure that is guarded by five or six armed guards at all time. They are fed barely any food and at night are handcuffed and shackled so there is no possible way of escape. Through persuasion, perseverance, and the will to live though, Dengler plans to find a way out of it. And he’s not going alone.

Director Werner Herzog has done a fantastic job of creating a war film that is not really like any others I’ve ever seen. Rescue Dawn takes the common perspective of a hero and literally throws him behind enemy lines. Ok, so you’ve seen Rambo captured before but you very well knew that Stallone would take out an entire camp single handedly. Here is Dengler that is nothing more then a fighter pilot who is brand new to battle and has the will and the know-how to get himself out of a horrible situation, or die trying.

Although the film is different and good in itself, it is Christian Bale (Dengler) that truly makes it as good as it is. The first time I ever saw Bale was in American Psycho and he’s captured my attention in everything he has starred in since. He makes you feel as if you are truly watching a man caught in a P.O.W. camp and will do anything in his power and beyond to get to freedom. The transition from a somewhat cocky pilot to a man suffering hallucinations and desperate for a helicopter to see him is completely flawless. Bale not one of the next great actors for he has already passed that threshold and become the next great actor.

I wasn’t familiar with Dengler’s story before viewing Rescue Dawn but now I’m very anxious to learn more. The amount of things that Dengler seemingly had to go through stems much farther then just getting out of captivity. It was his first mission, his plane got shot down, he was running for his life, and then got captured and tortured for starters. He was thrown into a small cell with strangers and had to devise a plan to get out of there. Not to mention dealing with a hippie named Eugene that was totally against escape at all times and threatened to divulge Dengler’s plan to the guards. It was a never ending struggle with one thing after another and here was a man strong enough to deal with everything thrown in his way. Amazing.

Rescue Dawn is another trip into the throngs of war hell for those of us that may never experience it in our lifetime. It isn’t always about the fields of battle and trying to aim your missile launchers accurately. War doesn’t necessarily mean that you are going to be killing someone hiding behind every tree in the jungle. Survival doesn’t only mean jumping out of the way of gunfire and hoping you don’t get shot down. It’s believing in yourself, never giving up, and always knowing that there is a light at the end of the tunnel as long as you try.

The Video

The film is shown in 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen format and looks good, but it appears way too dark and grainy in most situations. I received a screener copy of the film and am sure that it is better in the actual DVD release. It really is a beautiful film with some great looks at the last mountainsides of the wilderness, so it should really come across great.

The Audio

The film is heard in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and it sounds fantastic. The times of far with the gun battles, explosions, and everything else just engulfs you from every speaker. Dialogue can be heard just fine without having to adjust the volume constantly as well making for a nice viewing experience. The best part of all has to be the sounds of the jungle though. The surround sound really makes every animal, insect, and leaf movement sound as if you are right there.

Special Features

Audio Commentary – Director Werner Herzog and Norman Hill of Subversive Cinema join together to discuss the film and it is an excellent commentary. Hill asks some great questions, but it is Herzog’s detailed and in depth answers that give so much information about the film and everything that went into making it. They go on about the true story of Dieter Dengler, how Bale prepared for the role, how it was shooting in Thailand, and some of the things that were changed from the true facts. It is really an informative and interesting commentary and well worth checking out.

Deleted Scenes – There are three deleted scenes which can be viewed with commentary from Herzog or without. The commentary is good to listen to after initially checking out the scenes because Herzog explains exactly why the scenes were taken out and what they would have represented in the film if left in.

Still Gallery – This is a compilation of well over one hundred still frames from the film. I lost count after a while because there are truly so many and they are excellent shots. Some are in color while others are in black and white.

The Making Of A True Story – This is the “making of” featurette and it is broken up into four parts that can be viewed separately or all together. Together they total right around forty-five minutes and are really good. The first part is entitled “Unfinished Business: Telling Dieter’s Story” and has the cast and crew discussing what really happened and how they prepared themselves to portray it as true as possible. “Strength Of Character” goes deeper into how strong of a man that Dieter really was and how strong a man Bale had to be in order to play him accurately. Bale said that Herzog asked him straight-forward questions from the start such as “how would you feel about spending the night in the jungle?” and “would you bite the head off of a snake?”

“War Stories” is a bit of a behind the scenes segment that shows how a lot of the war scenes were created. It really is neat how most of the scenes were done without the aid of CGI and just about everything you see is real. Finally, “What Would Dieter Do?” has the cast and crew talk about what they feel the real Dieter Dengler would have done during the situations presented in the film. This entire featurette put together is a great watch and needs to be seen to fully appreciate it.

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The Inside Pulse

There is no reason not to pick up this film. Ok strike that, there is one reason. I can honestly not see someone like my father or my father-in-law really wanting to see it considering what they went through in times of war. I think it is the same reasoning a lot of vets aren’t fond of Saving Private Ryan and understandably so. But for those of you that can take war portrayal and the like, then make sure this is a film you check out soon. Bale’s acting alone is enough to make you want to see it over and over. Steve Zahn also turns in a masterful performance as Duane. The special features are plentiful and add on a lot of information about how the film was made and the real Dieter Dengler. Watch it, enjoy it, and experience it as if you may never set foot on foreign soil with a rifle in your hand. Buy it now because it is truly one of the best films of the year.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for Rescue Dawn
(OUT OF 10)






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